Overview: An expedition through one of the major rewilding regions in Europe. The team trekked the entire length of the Rhodope mountain range in Bulgaria – almost 400 km, in May 2016 and in so doing, became the first people to ever cross the entire Rhodopes on foot.
These mountains are known for their abundance of wildlife and picturesque scenery, as well as their remoteness. Recently however, much of the wildlife has come under threat resulting in significant population declines and even local extinctions. In 2014, Rewilding Europe selected the Eastern region as a rewilding area to halt population decline and bring back the extinct species. There were several aims of the expedition comprising scientific research, raising awareness of the rewilding initiative in Europe and educating people of its importance. The story of walking the Rhodopes and what the team found will be publicised through film, articles and talks.
View the trailer for the full film below. The film will be released Autumn 2016.
Scientific: Distribution of raptors (particularly vultures and eagles) along the entire mountain range and assessment of preferred habitats. This data can be used to prioritise specific habitats for conservation and provide data on the abundance of raptors inside and outside the rewilding region. Raptors are of high conservation significance in the region due to population declines as a result of habitat loss, poisoning and hunting.
Raising awareness: Through various media forms, particularly a short documentary, the team will endeavour to increase knowledge in the U.K of rewilding in Europe and the stunning locations on our doorstep such as the Rhodope mountains.
Education: Upon completion of Expedition Rhodope, the team will give talks at schools, youth organisations and community centres in the U.K with the objective of inspiring the next generation of conservationists, zoologists and adventurers using Expedition Rhodope as a case study.
The Region: The Rhodope mountain range dominates Southern Bulgaria and stretches into parts of Northern Greece. The Rhodope region is one of the 8 sites selected for rewilding by Rewilding Europe. It is home to an immense biodiversity, including brown bears, wolves, otters, Egyptian vultures and numerous other high profile species, many of which are listed as endangered. The region has one of the largest diversities of herpetofauna in Europe, over 30 birds of prey and an abundance of flora and freshwater fish species.
Rewilding: Rewilding is a conservation strategy that restores areas to their natural state and the species populations that once inhabited them. In order to do this, large swathes of unbroken habitat are required for populations to expand, particularly top predators. Apex predators are key in ‘top-down’ regulation of entire ecosystems where predators control populations and the top predator is controlled by prey availability. By initially intervening in supporting habitats to return to their natural state and enabling the replenishment of species numbers, the ecosystem will become self-sustaining in the future. This is important in providing strongholds that aid endangered species in population recovery and also to enable humans to learn about, enjoy and connect with nature.