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Wildlife In Bulgaria


The tourism related to Bulgarian herpetofauna is still in its very early stages, unlike the feathered friends of the animal kingdom, who have flocks of tourists signing up on package holidays or going it alone to see what species of bird they can spot. Therefore, the public awareness of the protective status of Bulgaria's reptiles and amphibians is considered at the moment to be unsatisfactory. However, a special order from the Ministry of Environment has been passed not only to protect against damage, injury or elimination of amphibians and reptiles, but also from the actual capture of specimens. Ongoing talks have also been taking place since EU entry to help step up the preservation of Bulgaria's impressive herpetofauna community.

There are examples of areas that are under special protection to maintain reproductive cycles of endangered, or particularly interesting, breeds. One area near Botevgrad, north-east from Sofia is such an example. Its marshy land is home to the migratory population of a particular species of common frog known as ‘Rana temporaria'. This species are usually a brownish-green or olive colour, and won't crawl like their toady counterparts, preferring instead to stick to just hopping.

Some species also face endangerment from commercial exploitation, and it's true that if you pop into any pet shop they will have a tank full of terrapins for sale, as well as other turtles and tortoises. They are often not kept well in the pet shop and are cheap to buy as a novelty for kids, which soon wear off. The two species of dry land tortoises are also classed as endangered thanks to exportation in the pet trade. The species in question, the once widely populating Spur-thighed tortoise (which is known to reach ages of an incredible 110-120 years!), and the Hermanns tortoise, are now protected by many acts including the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Penal Code of Bulgarian Republic, to name just two. These magnificent tortoises are now usually only encountered in the Territory of Eastern Rhodopes Mountain, Sakar Mountain, Derventski Vazvishenija Hills, Stranja Mountain and south Struma Valley as well as the lowlands of the ranging mountains.

Only a few decades ago, it was commonplace to see these slow-plodders most places in Bulgaria.

Apart from the pet trade, there are other factors contributing to the decrease of the tortoises, like global warming leading to confusing changes in climate, the young eggs being preyed on, predation, urbanisation and intensive agriculture.

Luckily, there are many other groups urging a change in the conscientiousness of Bulgarian amphibians and reptiles, including of course, the very budding wildlife tourism. What was once one of the least visited corners of Eastern Europe, Bulgaria is now an increasingly popular destination for bespoke holidays. Companies such as Naturetrek, Branta tours and BBFS who specialise in natural history and wildlife holidays, now organise long weekends tracking various Bulgarian wildlife including herpetofauna, and of course offer the tours in conjunction with other Bulgarian must-sees and dos, like the monasteries, mountains, cities and indeed, the food and wine!

Inhabitants of Bulgaria, including ex-pats of course, can also help to preserve this incredible variety of amphibians and reptiles, by simply respecting their environments and using common sense. Be careful when walking through areas that could be populated by smaller creatures that might get trodden on, don't feel the need to kill a snake if you encounter one in your garden - there are other ways of removing it, and do your bit to ensure endangered species don't continue to be exploited by the pet trade. The idea of a rare species terrarium may sound nice, but these creatures belong in the wild. Most importantly of all, enjoy the presence of these creatures and make sure you keep a camera at the ready should you stumble across a rare one!