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In 2011 the Program of IBER for conservation of the Saker falcon in Bulgaria enters a next new phase with the start of a project “Saker falcon reintroduction in Bulgaria”. The Project envisages a pilot release in the wild of 6 young birds during the spring and summer of 2011. National Park “Centralen Balkan” was chosen as a site for the reintroduction, which is one of the places with the best features regarding the species requirements in Bulgaria. The falcons will be marked with satellite transmitters and their movements and migration will be monitored. The aim of the project is not only to facilitate species’ population restoration, but also to learn more about the threats, the preferred habitats, food base, and the interactions of the Saker falcon with other birds of prey.
The activities in the National Park “Centralen Balkan” are conducted in close collaboration with the Park’s Directorate and Green Balkans Federation. The Project is funded by Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.

Adult Saker Falcon. Photo Jozef Chavko


Saker Falcon chicks. Photo Jozef Chavko


The release area

Hacking cage installation

Hacking cage installation process

The team

Hacking cage

Hacking cage

In January this year a second pair of Saker falcons joined the breading program of IBER, Green Balkans and Spatia Wildlife. The birds are from the European race (F. c. cherrug), originated from Czech Republic and Slovakia. They are accommodated in Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rescue Centre, where the Centre’s staff is taking care of them. It is expected the two pairs, formed so far, to start raise youngs in 2012 or 2013. They will be released in the wild, in former Saker falcons nesting sites, according to established methodology for reintroduction (hacking). We are hoping they will recognize the hacking sites as their “native” and when they are sexually mature, to start breeding in the wild.

The efforts of IBER in conservation of the Saker falcon were appreciated and documented in the second edition of IUCN and Species Survival Commission book - „GLOBAL RE-INTRODUCTION PERSPECTIVES: 2010”. Special article discusses: a) the species status in Bulgaria; b) the conservation activities implemented so far; c) the main difficulties encountered by the project team; d) the main lessons learned during the species conservation work in Bulgaria.




The first Saker Falcon pair for a captive breeding program was donated by the Spatia Wildlife private eco-tour company. These birds are a part of a large-scale Saker Falcon reintroduction program in Bulgaria, coordinated by the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, BAS (formerly Central Laboratory of General Ecology, BAS). The pair is accommodated in the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre at Green Balkans - Stara Zagora and after a quarantine period, they will be moved into a special breeding pen. This pair will initiate the formation of a bigger breeding stock of 6-10 pairs, the offspring of which is to be released into the wild. Our Population Viability Analysis Model showed that the release of 20 individuals (10 young males and 10 young females each year) for a period of 5 years can lead to the establishment of an increasing population of 8-15 nesting pairs in Bulgaria in some 10 years after the first release (Ragyov et al. 2009).






The restoration of the Saker Falcon through reintroduction is a dream of many Bulgarian ornithologists and we are now at the foothill of this long and difficult process. Following the requirements of IUCN, the first stage of the programme for reintroduction of the species was completed in 2009 with the compilation of the Feasibility Study for the reintroduction of the Saker Falcon in Bulgaria, which showed that the programme is a necessary step towards the restoration of the species. The Study can be downloaded here.
 The second obligatory stage from the IUCN requirements for reintroductions, namely Preparation Activities was completed in 2010, including: i) assessment of local people attitudes; ii) establishment of partnerships among the interested parties; and iii) improvement of the habitat quality. The Preparation Activities were implemented by cooperation between Green Balkans, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research and Central Balkan National Park Directorate.

Improving the conditions of a key European Ground Squirrel colony in Central Balkan National Park:



clearing of bushes


making new holes for souslics


Contact persons:

Dimitar Ragyov – IBER, coordinator of the South-Eastern European Saker Network (SESN) and coordinator of the “Saker Falcon in Bulgaria - Research and Conservation” Project; phone: +359 898585553;

Ivailo Klisurov - Wildlife Rescue Centre, Green Balkans; +359 886570052;

Anton StanchevCentral Balkan National Park Directorate; +359 886761214;

Dobromir Domuschiev Spatia Wildlife Ltd, main partner; phone: +359 878213546.



SESN against illegal trapping

The trapping of falcons during the summer and autumn is an important factor that keeps the Saker Falcon population in a low number in Turkey. Following these findings of the previous SESN work in the country, a new project was initiated. The project is called “Educational Outreach to Stop The Saker Falcon Trade in Turkey”. The main aim is to educate the law enforcement authorities about the critical status of the Saker Falcon in Turkey in order to encourage them to stop the illegal Saker Falcon trapping activities. The project is implemented by a team of two organizations: Istanbul University Department of Forestry - Raptor Research Department and Istanbul Bird Watching Society. More information about the project here.

The first outcomes of the project appeared on July 23th 2010: two Syrians and two Arab Turks were captured by the Military Police with 1 trapped Saker Falcon and 18 pigeons with several noose jackets. The Saker Falcon was hidden under the hood of the car. They were fined 3, 434 lira as a group for illegal hunting and the Syrian citizens were fined 6, 500 lira for capturing a protected bird of prey.


The Saker Falcon was released soon after it was identified by the police officers using the printing materials provided by the SESN members. We would like to thank to our partners - the military police officers of the Pinarbasa district Jandarma Command for their professional work.





Central Laboratory of General Ecology and Central Balkan National Park Directorate organized the third National Saker falcon Workshop in Bulgaria. The event was hosted by Central Balkan National Park Directorate and was held Gabrovo on March 5th.

The aims of the meeting were to discuss the idea about Saker Falcon reintroduction in Bulgaria and establish official national and international partnerships in regard of a future reintroduction programme.



Following organizations took part in the workshop:

Central Laboratory of General Ecology
Central Balkan National Park Directorate
Ministry of Environment and Waters
Green Balkans Federation
Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Center –
Green Balkans Stara Zagora

International Wildlife Consultants (UK) Ltd.
Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation
Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds
Birds of Prey Protection Society
Balkani Wildlife Society

As a result of the meeting the participants agreed and prepared a draft of Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Saker Falcon reintroduction programme in Bulgaria as a main tool for Saker Falcon conservation in Bulgaria.

© D. Ragyov, V. Shishkova
© D. Ragyov, V. Shishkova
© D. Ragyov, V. Shishkova
© D. Ragyov, V. Shishkova
© D. Ragyov, V. Shishkova
Central Balkan Mountains were assessed as one of the best areas for initial releases of Saker Falcons in Bulgaria
in the feasibility study for Saker Falcons in Bulgaria.
SESN is coordinated by:
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Sofia 1113, Yurii Gagarin str. 2
www.ecolab.bas.bg; gsm +359 898 58 55 53; Fax +359 2 870 54 98; e-mail: dimitar.ragyov@gmail.com