2022 was a difficult year. The war in Ukraine, the effects of the corona virus pandemic and the difficult economic situation have had an impact on us all. We saw on the news and through our windows that two existential crises - climate change and biodiversity loss - are not a distant future, but are happening here and now. But every new year must begin with hope. Where do we at WWF Bulgaria find hope? In our work.
Over the past 12 months we have continued to work hard for the conservation of Bulgarian nature. Our motivation is extremely strong because we are achieving real results. And they make us believe that positive change is possible. We are proud to present some of our most significant successes in 2022:
We won important court victories
Following our appeal, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) in Bulgaria overturned dozens of provisions in the Regulation on logging in forests. They made it possible to carry out logging without issuing a logging permit, to exceed the amount of wood harvested compared to the amount specified in the permit, and for other irregularities that put Bulgarian forests at risk. With this court victory, we have taken a key step towards bringing order and stability to the forestry sector.
We won a court battle for the protection of Pirin National Park that lasted over 3 years. The SAC finally rejected the decision of the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water for logging in the park, arguing that it contradicts two laws and that these logging operations can negatively affect wildlife. The victory will have an important effect on the conservation of national parks with regard to logging in them.
We monitored important species
Forest ecosystems are extremely complex and do not only include trees. It is also important to know the animals that inhabit them. We have monitored key species of birds, insects, and bats in some of the most vulnerable to climate change forests in the country - artificially created white pine forests. We are working to transform artificial forests into natural ones, aiming to have a positive impact on species and their habitats so they can adapt to climate change.
On our proposal a protected area "Sturgeons - Vetren" was established
A proposal by WWF Bulgaria led to the designation of a new protected area named "Sturgeons - Vetren" on a stretch of the Danube river. This is the first protected area in the country dedicated to sturgeons - one of the most endangered animals worldwide. The achievement is the result of ten years of field research and work with local fishing communities and institutions. We are particularly proud that local professional fishermen supported the designation of the protected area - a testament that we share a common view on the importance of sturgeon conservation in the Danube.
Huba, Vihar and Goran returned home
We successfully completed the operation of returning the three bears Huba, Vihar and Goran to the wild together with the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water and the Four Paws Foundation. The three bears were found orphaned and scared in the Rhodope Mountains in June 2021. They spent nearly a year in the Brown Bear Rehabilitation Centre of the Arcturus organization in Greece. Once the specialists there determined that the bears were ready, an arrangement was made to release them back into the wild. Their new home is the Central Balkan National Park.
WWF’s Bear Rescue Squad continues its active work
In the past year our Bear Rescue Squad worked on 20 signals - we observed bears and their tracks in or near different settlements. We placed 12 electric fences to prevent bear attacks on apiaries, raspberry orchards, and domestic animals. We met with representatives of various institutions and local authorities. We are also providing citizens with useful information about bears and the areas they inhabit.
Near 11 huts in the mountain of Pirin we also put up signs with advice on how to avoid meeting a bear and what to do if you do see the animal. These activities are part of our work to prevent and reduce human-bear conflict.
We published the first ever report on wildlife crime in Bulgaria
Our study on the real scale of wildlife crimes covers the period 2016 - 2020. Such an analysis has not been done in Bulgaria before. The results are more than interesting. It turns out, for example, that there is a large discrepancy between the number of injured animals registered by institutions and those that passed through rehabilitation centers in the country. The data also show that endangered species enjoy considerably less protection than so-called economically important species, i.e., those allowed for hunting and fishing. In the report we make a number of recommendations to competent state authorities.
We actively participated in the European Green Deal Advisory Board
We worked with institutions and various stakeholders within the newly formed European Green Deal Advisory Board and the Energy Transition Commission of the Council of Ministers. We have been involved in the planning of the transition to a carbon-free economy, measures to address fuel poverty and the accelerated deployment of renewable energy under the Fit for 55 package and the REPowerEU plan.
We presented recommendations for a more just energy transition in coal regions, addressing climate risks and adaptation through nature-based solutions at meetings with institutions and MPs.
PanGea - the youth organization of WWF Bulgaria, was established
11 great young conservationists were selected from over 50 applicants to form WWF Bulgaria’s youth organization PanGea. The young Pandas, aged between 15 and 25, attended a week-long summer camp during which they went through a number of training sessions, elected a leadership and launched their activities. PanGea's big goal is to create an active youth community committed to environmental conservation in Bulgaria.
Panda Labs' hackathons spark inspiring ideas
Dozens of young people took part in the hackathons of the youth innovation platform Panda Labs. They proposed sustainable solutions to tackle current environmental challenges. How do we need to change energy production and consumption? What should the cities of the future look like? What should rural development look like in Bulgaria? Participants in the various hackathons submitted many valuable and interesting proposals on these topics, and the winning ideas were truly impressive
We supported the development of young climate heroes
Six interesting initiatives were implemented under the Climate Heroes project. They included an information campaign related to composting in schools, an art installation in Pomorie made of waste collected from the beach by the sea, an eco-seminar in Bourgas on recycling, waste and eco-solutions and more. 19 young people from Bulgaria were trained by the project in the past year, and for the whole project period a total of 117 young people from four countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and the Czech Republic) were trained on topics such as climate change, environmentally friendly solutions, media campaigns, etc. In July, a regional event was held in Brno, Czech Republic, where young people from the four countries presented their ideas for ‘green’ initiatives.
All of our achievements are made possible thanks to the invaluable help of our partners, supporters, and donors!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your trust and support!
In 2023, we remain dedicated to the mission of creating a world where humans and animals live in harmony.
If you need further information, please contact:
Denitsa Raykova, Content Creator at WWF-Bulgaria, firstname.lastname@example.org