Bulgaria has paid more than 223 000 leva compensation this year for damage by bears

Since the beginning of 2021, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Environment and Water has paid a record 223 000 leva (about 114 000 euro) in compensation for damage caused by brown bears, the ministry said on December 23.

So far, the ministry has received 160 requests for compensation, and there are still files being processed, it said.

By the beginning of September, about 128 000 leva had been paid out.

Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policy and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov had resumed the payments and on December 22, about 95 000 leva were transferred.

The ministry said that in 2020, there had been a total of 128 applications, involving 105 000 leva.

The large number of raids by bears was mainly because of the lack of food in the forests and the entry of humans, including vehicles in the bear’s natural habitats, as well as climate change. The damage is mainly to farm animals and produce and apiaries.

“Preserving biodiversity in Bulgaria is one of my main priorities,” Sandov said.

He said that the payment of benefits was one of the best mechanisms to reduce bear-human conflict and in this regard, was a direct conservation measure to protect the species.

Given the specifics of the brown bear species, the main threat to it is poaching, but in recent years the population of the species has been relatively stable, the ministry said.

The practice of compensation has been assessed as very successful, both by the European Commission and in various expert forums, the statement said.

The compensation is paid out on the basis of the Hunting and Game Protection Act, and has been since 2003.

The ministry said that about 90 to 95 per cent of the damage occurs on the territory of the Smolyan regional inspectorate of environment and waters.

It said that this was because, on the one hand, most of Bulgaria’s brown bear population was concentrated in the Rhodopes, while on the other, the region had a relatively small population, living in villages and the mountains, so the habitats of bears and humans were shared.

“This inevitably leads to conflict and, if not countered, will lead to poaching,” the ministry said.

(Photo: Environment Ministry)

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