Europe and Central Asia
23 May 2014

New prestigious award praises BirdLife Bulgarian Partner’s work in protecting imperial eagles

Photo by Svetoslav Spasov/ BirdLife Bulgaria
By Communications

The tremendous work by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB; BirdLife in Bulgaria) to protect the Imperial Eagle was recompensed yesterday by the European Commission with the new Natura 2000 Award for Conservation.

The Natura 2000 Award was organised for the very first time this year by the European Commission to celebrate and promote best practices in nature conservation in Europe. Five winners, one for each award category - Communication, Conservation, Networking and cross-border cooperation, Reconciling interests and perceptions and Socio-economic benefits – were rewarded at a ceremony held in Brussels on May the 21st. (BSPB) won in the most competitive category, Conservation, with 56 nominations and six short-listed projects.

The Imperial Eagle is one of the most remarkable and rare birds on Earth. As a globally endangered species, its population continues to decrease worldwide. In Bulgaria, the Imperial Eagle used to be one of the most common birds of prey 200 years ago but nowadays only 24 pairs remain in the country. This decline is mainly due to the changes in land use which triggered a colossal loss of habitats and food for the species. But one of the most serious threats to the remaining bird population in Bulgaria today is electrocution from badly designed electricity pylons. Between 2009 and 2013, it caused the death of 67% of the birds in the Bulgarian Sakar region, home to half of the country’s Eagle population.

In order to effectively address the issue, BSPB decided to engage with the Bulgarian electricity grid sector. Within a joint project with the power company EVN, BSPB was able to get 595 hazardous electricity poles insulated. BSPB provided insulation caps and EVN mounted them. As a result, no more electrocuted eagles have been found and the number of breeding pairs has increased by 25 %. Convinced of the mutual benefits of this initiative, EVN has decided to go further and is planning to convert 46 km of overhead power lines into underground cables, to replace another 15 km of bare line with insulated cable and to retrofit 2 740 pylons.

The Natura 2000 Award jury saluted the project, its successful outcomes and the fact that it was a model applicable everywhere in Europe.

For more information visit the European Commission website.

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