In November 12 fallow deer were released in the Rhodope rewilding area, marking the beginning of the restocking activities in the area
Over the next few months 100 more animals will be relocated to key rewilding territories as part of efforts to restore the species population in this area a century after its disappearance. The last five years more than 400 fallow deer and 50 red deer have been released by the local rewilding team in the Rhodope Mountains.
Focusing on the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area, as well as a section of the Rhodope Mountains in northern Greece, the broader aim is recovery and further expansion of local black and griffon vulture populations, mainly by improving the availability of natural prey, and by reducing mortality through factors such as poaching, poisoning and collisions with power lines.
Vultures will certainly benefit from the reintroduction, as deer carcasses will mean more food available. The Rhodope Mountains rewilding area is one of the last strongholds of the griffon vulture in Europe, and is home to the only indigenous population in Bulgaria. Black vultures from the only Balkan colony in Greece also frequent the area in search for food.
The fallow deer was widespread in the past in the Bulgarian lands. It is depicted on several Thracian treasures such as the Panagyurishte and Lukovit treasures, and its bone remains have been found in almost all Bulgarian prehistoric settlements. It is believed to have been exterminated by man in the early Middle Ages. At the beginning of the last century, its restoration in Bulgaria began.
The biological diversity in the Rhodopes is one of the richest in Europe, for which the decisive role is played by wild herbivores, including fallow deer and red deer. These animals maintain many species in the typical mosaic landscape of the Rhodopes. The return of the fallow deer gives a chance both for the restoration of the wild nature and for the transformation of the Rhodopes into a desirable tourist destination in Bulgaria.
All fallow and red deer releases in the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area are carried out under the framework of the European Commission-funded LIFE Vultures project, with additional support provided by Fondation Segré. Starting in 2016, this five-year project was developed by Rewilding Europe, in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), and a range of other partners.