A visually stunning new exhibition, showcasing the natural wonders of the Eastern Rhodopes, is wowing visitors by making the Bulgarian capital Sofia a wilder place. Titled “Lords of the Rhodopean Skies”, it features 32 images depicting some of the most astonishing natural sights of the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area.
With the event organised under the auspices of the “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in the Rhodope Mountains” project (LIFE Vultures), which is funded by the European Union’s (EU) LIFE Programme, the pictorial highlight of the exhibition are awe-inspiring shots of Rhodopean griffon and black vultures.
Installed in an exhibition area in front of Sofia’s National Theatre, Lords of the Rhodopean Skies officially opened on May 17. The opening, attended by the LIFE Vultures team, official guests and crowds of visitors, was designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the EU’s Habitats Directive and LIFE Programme. This key milestone was celebrated throughout Europe on May 21 with Natura 2000 Day. The Habitats Directive, together with the Birds Directive (ratified in 1979), led to the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network of protected areas, and has successfully contributed to the preservation of Europe’s unique natural heritage.
The opening of the exhibition was attended by a range of officials, including representatives of Bulgaria’s Executive Forests Agency. Stefan Avramov, of the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, together with Boyko Blagoev, the European Commission’s Head of Communications in Bulgaria, took the opportunity to highlight the achievements of the EU-funded LIFE Programme. Avramov invited visitors to discover the stunning biodiversity of the Rhodope Mountains and its Natura 2000 sites, where nature and humans harmoniously co-exist.
Through the “Lord of the Rhodopean skies” exhibition, which will be held until June 2, visitors will be able to appreciate and learn more about the beautiful landscapes and wonderful flora and fauna of the this rewilding area. The nature of this area, which is some of the richest and best preserved in Europe, includes more than 4300 animal and plant species. With volunteers handing out special postcards depicting some of the finest images from the exhibition, every visitor to the event will be able to take a symbolic piece of Rhodopean wild nature back home with them.
The most valuable natural hotspots of the Rhodope Mountains are protected by nine Natura 2000 sites. The region is Bulgaria’s only breeding location for the griffon vulture, and is the most important breeding centre on the Balkan Peninsula for the globally threatened Egyptian vulture. The area is also one of the most important Bulgarian strongholds for the wolf, jackal and otter, while even the brown bear has begun to stage a comeback here in recent years.
Impactful wildlife and wild nature photography is always a powerful communications tool. The aim of the Lords of the Rhodopean Skies exhibition is to present the great beauty and drama of the Rhodopes to an extensive audience, reconnecting people (even those living in urban areas) with Bulgarian nature. It will help to focus public attention on the significant achievements of the EU’s nature conservation legislation and LIFE programme in preserving Bulgarian nature, particularly in the Rhodope Mountains. If you are in the area, we warmly invite you to stop by!