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Exploring the jungle of Mantaritsa WILDForest

Mantaritsa Strict Reserve was established in 1968 to showcase and protect an old, unmanaged forest ecosystem in the Western Rhodope Mountains. During their visit in Bulgaria, auditors of the European Wilderness Society paid a visit to this outstanding Reserve.

Broadleaf and conifer jungle

The forested area is 97.7% of the Reserve, covered mainly by spruce, beech and silver fir. Therefore, as can be imagined, the vegetation is for the most part simply impassable. Auditors were pleased to see the natural mixed-aged stands. The forest includes many canopy openings due to the healthy percentage of dead wood and natural rejuvenation.

Since the forest has been unmanaged already for several decades, the dynamic forest structure provides habitat for a wide range of species.
Brown bear and wolf are present here, together with badger, wild cat and pine marten. Besides that, its red deer and roe deer population is thriving, as well as the wild boar. This is an important point to mention, since due to heavy poaching the once widespread Bulgarian red deer population has almost completely disappeared. The Reserve is also home to several rare bird species. Some examples include the three-toed woodpecker, pygmy owl, hazel grouse, black woodpecker and European crested tit.

New WILDForest in the network

400 ha of the Reserve was subject to a Pre-Audit in autumn 2019. Auditors met with representatives of the Regional Inspectorate in Pasardzik and discussed the possibilities of auditing Mantaritsa Strict Reserve. Accompanied by a local expert, auditors found that the area meets the European Wilderness Quality Standard and can be qualified as WILDForest. During the finalisation of the Quick-Audit, the size of Mantaritza WILDForest has a big potential to be significantly increased.

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