The beginning of our history is in 1988.
The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds is the first citizens’ nature conservation organization in the most recent Bulgarian history. Our date of birth in June 3rd, 1988, more than 30 years ago. The BSPB was founded by scientists, university professors and bird lovers, led by their will to take real action for bird conservation.
In 1992 the organization was approved as the Bulgarian representative of the oldest international organization for bird conservation – BirdLife International. Staying true to the scientific approach in the conservation of birds and other endangered animals and plants, the BSPB is recognized as a successful professional organization with members and structures across Bulgaria.
In the beginning were the birds…
Since its early days the BSPB implements practical actions aimed at the conservation of endangered species. The volunteer-run feedings for the vultures in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains that we organized transformed into a comprehensive conservation programme that allowed us to save the griffon vultures from extinction. Their population in Bulgaria grew from a few pairs to more than 100 pairs in 2020.
We built the first man-made islands for endangered water birds, as well as nests for storks and raptors. We made the first steps in the conservation and care for other emblematic species too, such as the imperial eagle, the black and Egyptian vultures, the red-breasted goose. We proposed dozens of territories for protection; one of them – Poda Protected Area in the vicinity of the city of Burgas, was commissioned to the BSPB for management.
Along with purely practical actions we introduced in Bulgaria the most modern approaches to conservation globally. Immediately after the foundation of the BSPB we started systematic efforts for the establishment of a network of Important Bird Areas – we collected data to identify such valuable territories for birds and their boundaries, we prevented human activities that threatened them, we fought to accomplish the highest percentage of them declared protected. Subsequently, all these activities formed the ‘backbone’ of the national ecological network Natura 2000 that the state was obliged to establish after Bulgaria joined the European Union. The BSPB was commissioned with identifying the bird sites of the Natura 2000 network.
We introduced other modern approaches in biodiversity conservation too. Among them are the first radio tracking of an animal species (corncrake, 1997), the first action plans for the conservation of endangered species (published in 2004), the first national programme for bird monitoring (common birds monitoring, started in 2004 and ongoing).
In 1997 we created the first conservation centres in Bulgaria – Poda near the city of Burgas, and Iztochni Rodopi, close to the town of Madzharovo in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains.
Where would we be without legislation…
In order to achieve all that and to make sure that Bulgarian nature is protected indeed, we needed to integrate the respective requirements of the European directives in advance in the national ecology legislation. Thanks to the experience we had gained already, as well as to the cooperation of experts from other partnering organizations of BirdLife International from other member states of the EU, we provided significant assistance to the Bulgarian government. Due to the high professionalism we demonstrated in our work on the Protected Territories Act, we were officially invited by the Minister of Environment and Water to draw up the framework for the next key nature conservation legal instrument – the Bulgarian Biodiversity Act.
Last but not least, we introduced the concept of the important bird areas that served as a basis for the identification of protected areas for birds, for the preparation of the action plans for individual species, and for other fundamental conservation approaches.
We clearly understood that nature conservation cannot be successful without public support, and we invested substantial systematic effort in providing profitable opportunities for local communities from their preserved nature. We set the foundations of sustainable nature tourism in Bulgaria as an important instrument in this respect.
For years now the results of our work are clearly visible. For example, the former mining town of Madzharovo today is a birdwatching hotspots with hotels, guest houses and other local initiatives that earn a living from the tourists that visit the area.
In recent years we raised the bar in our conservation efforts – we introduced and initiated mechanisms to ensure that the existing governmental mechanisms work in direct favour of everybody who adopts a sustainable approach in their rural businesses. These mechanisms include the direct payments, the subsidies and other functional elements of our national economy. In this way we contribute to the formation of ‘automatic nature conservation’ where every producer whose activities do not harm nature receives a higher income and thus it is in their own interest to protect and conserve nature.
Science and citizens…
We created the first national scheme for monitoring of biodiversity in Bulgaria and started implementing it with more than 200 volunteers. With their help we realize events such as the mid-winter waterfowl count, the common birds monitoring, the white stork count, the Seed of love campaign, the Let’s count the sparrows campaign and other assessment activities that provide data for scientifically based conservation and for policies for the sustainable management of natural resources.
We are authors of…
…more than 100 books, leaflets and scientific articles about birds. One of the most significant ornithological monographs – the first Atlas of the Breeding Birds in Bulgaria, a starting point for all future scientific and nature conservation activities on wild birds, is also the result of our work.
More than 55 000 people have taken an active part in our nature conservation activities over the years.