A recent visit by Bulgarian journalists to the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area led to extensive coverage of rewilding efforts in regional and national media. Such productive results show the benefit of reaching out to and maintaining productive relations with media representatives.
Informing and inspiring
Generating interest in the wild is one of Rewilding Europe’s core objectives. Today the profile, popularity and impact of European rewilding continues to grow, as this innovative approach to conservation captures the hearts and minds of people of all ages and backgrounds.
One of the ways in which Rewilding Europe reaches out to, informs and inspires people is by ensuring our rewilding activities – and the thinking behind them – feature regularly in national and international media.
With this in mind, the Rhodope Mountains rewilding team recently organised a three-day media visit to showcase the efforts of the LIFE Vultures project, which is working to support the recovery and expansion of the black and griffon vulture populations in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria and Greece.
Representatives of a number of national and regional Bulgarian media organisations took part in the trip, including the Bulgarian National Radio, the Peika.bg tourist site, a team from TV Agro, the regional site xnews.bg, as well as a freelance journalist.
Visiting the key project areas of Studen Kladenets and Madzharovo in the Bulgarian Rhodopes, the media group witnessed the results of ongoing rewilding efforts first hand, enjoying numerous sightings of red deer, fallow deer and griffon vultures. They also met with project partners and local entrepreneurs, and were introduced to Nikolay and his dog Bars – the Rhodope Mountains anti-poison dog unit.
In terms of media coverage, the trip was very successful. A number of radio interviews and television reports have already aired, with more in the pipeline, as well as a magazine article. The journalists taking part were largely impressed and enthused by their rewilding experience.
“It was fascinating to learn about rewilding in a Bulgarian context,” says Elenitsa Marinova, a reporter working for Bulgarian National Radio. “The area’s breathtaking views and iconic widlife species, together with its unique culture and cuisine, make this a destination that far more people should know about.”
Organising a media trip is about more than just inviting journalists and showing them around. The participants on the Rhodope Mountains trip were given plenty of material about the area and rewilding efforts, incuding information about vulture conservation and short resumes of rewilding team members.
Time was spent familiarising media representatives with the connection between the local vulture population and free-roaming grazing animals such as red and fallow deer (as a source of wild carrion for the vultures to feed on). They also witnessed the role of wildlife comeback in benefitting local livelihoods through the development of nature-based tourism, meeting with entrepreneurs running birdwatching, kayaking and cycling tours in the area.
“I try not to give journalists one key message, but to help them identify and tell stories,” says Nelly Naydenova, the communications officer attached to the Rhodope Mountains rewilding team who organised the trip. “I try to ensure that they meet the right people and get the right information, but that they aren’t overwhelmed or overloaded with facts and figures.”
Naydenova is keen to stress the two-way nature of her relationship with the media. “These trips are a good way for me to get to know journalists that I haven’t worked with previously,” she says. “Building a mututally productive relationship with media representatives requires a lot of effort. A single journalist visit or interaction typically isn’t enough – you have to keep their interest and ‘nourish’ the relationship.”
Starting in 2016, the five-year LIFE Vultures project was developed by Rewilding Europe, in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), and a range of other partners.
Focusing on the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area in Bulgaria, as well as a section of the Rhodope Mountains in northern Greece, the aim of the project is to support the recovery and further expansion of the black and griffon vulture populations in this part of the Balkans, mainly by improving natural prey availability, and by reducing mortality through factors such as poaching, poisoning and collisons with power lines.
Want to know more?
- Visit the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation website
- Read more about the LIFE Vultures project
- Learn more about the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area
- Visit the Rewilding Rhodopes Facebook page
- Video report of trip by Agro TV Bulgaria