Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna

Livestock Prevention and Compensation program

This program is one of FWFF’s activities to cope with Man/Predator conflict.  The Livestock Prevention and Compensation program is one of FWFF’s most important and successful programs to date earning recognition from many quarters including the Whitley Fund for Nature, which has awarded Emilian Stoynov, FWFF’s Chairman, a very prestigious Whitley Award in 2007.  Watch video here.

Emilian Stoynov and Her Majesty Princess Anne from the Royal family at the Whitley Ceremony in 2007

The damage a wolf can do, is no surprise people resort to desperate measures to protect their livestock
The man/predator conflict is a huge problem in Bulgaria.
Farmers suffer attacks from a wide range of species including Bears, Wolves, Jackals, Lynxes and feral dogs and many livestock are lost as a result. In fact of the 20,000 livestock owners in the project area 60% said they had lost an animal to predators in the last 3 years and 45% said predator attacks are a continuous problem (2007).

Victims of wolf’s attack

Unlike Western Europe in rural areas of Bulgaria many individuals usually only have a handful of sheep or goats (2-6, but sometimes more) which are then herded together as a cooperative under either a rotation of owners or a single paid shepherd. If just one sheep from a flock is lost it can be a devastating blow to the owner as it can mean 30% or more of his animals are lost and as he isn’t breeding the animals just using them for their milk and meat they are not easy for him to replace as the cost of a sheep in Bulgaria is about the half as the average monthly wage for countryside and about the 2/3 of the average national monthly pension.

Victim of illegal poisoning

With this knowledge it is easy to sympathise with the farmers and understand why they resort to the illegal practice of placing a poisoned bait to kill the predators in a desperate attempt to protect their animals. Sadly the results of this action are devastating to the populations of many predator species like the Bear, Wolf and Lynx as well as scavenging species such as Vultures and Eagles who die from secondary poisoning after eating the poison baits.

After seeing the devastation that these illegal poison baits caused FWFF decided to act to save the predator species of Bulgaria and most importantly for FWFF the scavenging raptor species which die from secondary poisoning.

A part of FWFF poster

FWFF initiated an innovative livestock compensation program that aimed to reduce the man/predator conflict and create a win-win situation for both man and the predators. The programme has started in SW Bulgaria where it had a positive effect on the wildlife in Rila and Pirin National Parks and adjacent territories and in along Balkan Mountain. These areas are important biodiversity reservoirs and traditional predators’ refuges. Now it is working only in the vultures’ reintroduction regions of Kresna Gorge and Kotel Mountain.

FWFF first started the program in 2002 and since then it has built up 5 mixed herds of sheep and goats from which the replacement animals are taken.
Even if a farmer does not meet the criteria for livestock compensation FWFF helps in other ways. By working with insurance companies FWFF has promoted the insuring of peoples livestock against predator, a practice that was very uncommon before the program started. FWFF often donates these policies to farmers who do not meet the full compensation requirements which is again a further incentive to improve their defense systems as the insurance policy demands a minimum level of protection from predators.

Donation of guarding dogs to farmers

FWFF and the insurance companies often insist that dogs are used to protect the herds from predators as a team of good guarding dogs is best defense against all predators but the bear. But these dogs are expensive and hard to take care, train and feed.
So another way FWFF helps to reduce the man/predator conflict is by providing guarding dogs free of charge through our Guarding Dogs Programme to the most badly affected farmers. We give sometimes training and always advice on how to properly rear the dogs so they become effective guard dogs as unfortunately this has become a lost skill. We also try to only provide male and female pairs to farmers so that in the future they can breed and provide guarding dogs for the rest of their communities.

By reducing the chances of livestock being killed through improving defensive measures and by compensating the livestock that are killed FWFF has created a climate where the number of livestock that is lost to predators is now seen as acceptable. This is great news as it means the people are now far less inclined to use the illegal poison baits which is of course what the program aimed for.
One of the big frustrations livestock owners used to have was that the predators were protected yet the peoples livestock was not. If a predator killed their sheep the state would not help but if the owners placed a poison bait to solve the problem then they were breaking no less than 3 laws. Anyway the state has no potential to develop and pay for such a huge compensation program. That’s why FWFF experts think this should be maintained locally by NGO groups and should be developed nationally by obligation to all livestock farmers to do insurance for predators’ attacks whereby private insurance companies will make the compensations.

In the period 2009-2016 FWFF has:
– Donated 104 guarding dogs and 15 electric fences to farmers in Kotel Mountain, Sakar Mountain and Central Balkan
– Investigated 41 predators’ attacks in Kresna Gorge
Compensated 98 farmers with 88 sheep and goat, 40 guarding dogs and insurance police for 220 livestock units
– Assigned the Dutch internship student Hans Wilpstra to accomplish first huge investigation about depredation level and conflicts with predators. He interviewed 26 cattle farmers and 50 sheep/goat farmers.
– Got first report of Hans called Predation on livestock by wolf (Canis lupus) in the Kresna gorge, Bulgaria. A study on interactions between wolves, humans and scavengers in the Kresna Gorge, Bulgaria. What do we eat tonight?! covers territories of two municipalities –Simitli and Kresna and the total surface of the researched area is 400 km2
– Shifted FWFF Model herd in Kresna Gorge from sheep to autochthonous cattle breed to demonstrate local farmers how to deal with wolf’s attacks in Kresna Gorge. Four more major farmers were convinced to shift too. This stopped the attacks.
– Published an article “HOW TO AVOID DEPREDATION ON LIVESTOCK BY WOLF – THEORIES AND TESTS” E. STOYNOV, A. GROZDANOV, S. STANCHEV, H. PESHEV, N. VANGELOVA and D. PESHEV was published in Bulgarian Journal of Agricultural Science, 20 (1) 2014, 000–000 Agricultural Academy
– Accomplished an article called “Is the Wolf presence beneficial to Vultures in Europe?“ Emilian Stoynov¹, Nadya Vangelova¹, Hristo Peshev¹, Atanas Grozdanov², Hans Wilpstra, Dimitar Parvanov², Diana Zlatanova², Ventsislav Delov
– Has started Reintroduction Program of Fallow deer in order to verify the wolfs’ available food and stop the great press over livestock causing man-predator conflicts and leads to illegal poisoning.

The Program was financed by:

In the period 2006 – 2008 FWFF has:

Goats for compensation

– Directly helped 155 farmers
– And indirectly helped over 1000
– Directly compensated 64 sheep
– Directly compensated 35 goats
– Donated 45 shepherd dogs which will in turn breed and provide even more dogs for the local community
– Provided 56 insurance policies free of charge
– Provided invaluable advice to farmers on how to protect their animals
– Distributed thousands of leaflets and posters to educate the local people about the effects of using illegal poison baits
– Won one of conservations most respected awards for its work on the project, the coveted Whitley Award
– Made the compensation program an official operation of Strumyani municipality

A goat victim of wolf’s attack

Since 2006 FWFF has been working with the Municipality of Strumyani to make the compensation program an official state organ, at least in this one locality. FWFF gave advice to the municipality about applying for funding for the project and under FWFF’s guidance they were successful. Since then FWFF had begun training the municipality in the methods of the compensation program as well as training them how to train the farmers themselves in protecting their livestock effectively.

As part of this new stage in the development of the program it was hoped that electric fences will start to be donated to farmers to protect their barns on an evening and also to allow Bee-keepers to protect their bee hives which will reduce the conflict between this group of individuals and bears further reducing the use of poison baits.
So far this program had been extremely successful in reducing the man/predator conflict and reducing the use of illegal poison baits.
Only once the use of poison baits has reached a near non-existent level can the conservation and reintroduction of globally threatened raptor species such as all 4 vulture species and the Imperial Eagle start effectively within Bulgaria. This is what we eventually aimed for, the restoration of healthy populations of all of scavenging and predator species within Bulgaria.

The Program was financed by:

In the period 2002-2005 FWFF has: 

Started  establishment of Compensatory Program for compensation of loses of the livestock due to predator attacks in SW Bulgaria in order to stop the illegal use of poison baits in natural environment and so optimizing the region for conservation of the large predators and the threatened birds of prey species. Purchased hundreds of sheep and goat to establish Compensation herds.
Collection of information for killed by predators animals in the region from farmers, through the NGOs, local people, state institutions etc.
Setting up a list of requirements for the farmers how to keep their herds in order to be compensated for livestock killed by predators.
Visiting all reported cases for killed livestock and investigating the cases.
Collecting information for the level of Man/Predators conflict and possibility of applying poison baits.
Compensation of killed livestock providing a live one from the FWFF Compensation herd.
Collection of information through observation and monitoring of some species considered to be indicators for poisoning: Ravens (Corvus corax), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) – for wolf poisoning and poison baits setting for predators; Jackdows (Corvus monedula) and other Corvidae as well as Turtle Dove (Streptopelia tutur), Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and others – for insecticide and other pesticides uncontrolled use. In all cases the presence of the Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is also indicative for both poison baits use for control of predators and uncontrolled overuse of pesticides in the agricultural lands.
Collection of information for all kind of poisoned (dead) animals e.g. dogs, cats, mice, rats, as well as wild species. Taking samples for toxicological analyzes and sending them to Wildlife Rescue Center of Green Balkans and NVI Sofia for analyzing.

 – Used mass media for raising the public awareness for predators and the alternative ways of preventing livestock kills and reduction of Man/ Predators conflict intensity- Published a booklet format A5 with 48 pages. The booklet is describing how to prevent the predator attacks on livestock, how to investigate the predator kills and how to establish an compensation program.

– Compensated in 2004 about 38 farmers; some of them were given sheep (25 farmers), goats (6 farmers), shepherd dogs (4 farmers) and insurance bills (3 farmers). All in all, there were donated as compensation 35 sheep, 6 goats, 4 Karakachan shepherd dogs and insurance bills for 40 sheep and goats.

– Provided food for the scavenger birds in the area, as the killed by predators animals were taken from their owners so avoiding the possible use of poison. The FWFF brought the carcasses to the feeding place. About 40 feedings on a permanent feeding places with total amount of 3486 kilos of carcass have been provided.

Sheep loaded for compensation to farmers

– Provided in 2005- 17 goats and 44 sheep as well 20 guarding and 12 Karakachan dogs dogs were given for compensation.

The Program was financed by: