Children celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day in the Rhodopes

8 September 2017

The first weekend in September saw a crowd of more than 40 people gather in the town of Madzharovo, in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, to mark International Vulture Awareness Day Taking place across the world on this weekend every year, the day is designed to publicise and promote the conservation of vultures to a global audience, and to celebrate the splendour of these endangered birds.

Together with members of the Rewilding Rhodopes team, the group of children and adults began the day by taking a tour of Madzharovo’s Vulture Information Centre, learning about vulture biology, behaviour and distribution, and the main threats that these birds face today.

Known as “nature’s cleaners”, vultures are renowned scavengers, performing an invaluable task by disposing of the carcasses of animals and helping to prevent the spread of disease. But a decreasing availability of food, coupled with habitat loss, persecution and poisoning, has seen many vulture populations decrease to worryingly low levels across the world.

Circle of Life brochure
Circle of Life brochure

Rewilding Europe, together with Dutch NGO Ark Nature, launched the Circle of Life – a new way of supporting Europe’s scavengers, including vultures – on this year’s International Vulture Awareness Day. A recently published brochure, providing a practical overview of the possibilities for such an approach, can be viewed here.

Many visitors at the event were also thrilled to see local Bulgarian vultures in the wild, some for the very first time. Accompanied by an ornithologist from the vulture centre, a group of young nature enthusiasts made a short trip to watch griffon vultures on their nests. The Rhodope Mountains are famous for their biodiversity, and the children were also delighted to spot a black stork flying overhead.

But the day’s greatest excitement was undoubtedly generated by the kite workshop. Making kites with the outline of a vulture proved to be quite a challenge, requiring much dexterity, ingenuity and patience. Yet Egyptian, black and griffon vultures were soon faithfully represented in kite form, as these large and majestic birds were brought to life in paper and string.

The team’s day was made by the light-hearted confession of one small girl, who declared that her kite-making experience had been “one of the most exciting moments of my life”. While they assured her that more thrilling wildlife-related experiences would probably follow, the team were delighted to have inspired such an eager new vulture fan!

Members of the Rewilding Rhodopes team oversee the highly popular kite making workshop.
Members of the Rewilding Rhodopes team oversee the highly popular kite making workshop.

Needless to say, the creations of the workshop performed with all the grace and agility of a young vulture taking to the wing for the first time. Still, what counted most was the memories of conversations about these special birds, and hopes for their brighter future. Everyone looked forward to many more shared, exciting and inspiring moments together.

Alongside the kite making, another workshop took place. A second group made vultures t-shirts with the help of a ready-made print, giving old t-shirts a new lease of life. Reusable cloth bags were also stamped, encouraging children and their parents to protect the Rhodopean environment by using them in a sustainable way.

Younger environmentalists also enjoyed an array of games prepared by the Rewilding Rhodopes team, including puzzles, vulture painting and colouring games. A long and eventful day was rounded off with a sweet surprise – a chocolate cake. A satisfying ending to a day dedicated to vultures and the people protecting them!

This event was organised as part of the ongoing project entitled “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in the Rhodope Mountains”, which is funded by the LIFE programme of the European Union and the Swiss Fondation Segré.

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