The autumn of 2019, auditors of European Wilderness Society visited a number of protected areas in Bulgaria. The most Southern point reached was Kongura Strict Reserve, embedded into Belasitsa Nature Park. The Reserve was created in 1988 and is located in the Belasitsa Mountains, bordering Greece and North Macedonia.
Please also read: Next in Bulgaria: Potential Wilderness Ali Botush
Protected through history
Similarly to Ali Botush Strict Reserve, Kongura is also bordering Greece. As Bulgaria was part of the Eastern bloc, the border zone required a special permission to enter. Therefore the road was mostly open only for military purposes. The remains of buildings remind visitors how complex the history of this Reserve really is.
Kongura Strict Reserve provides protection to an extensive area of old beech and sweet chestnut forests. The chestnut occupies the lower parts, below the beech belt. Within the territory of the pre-audited area, the forest is covering over 97%. The formerly grazed and logged tree line is visibly in the process of spontaneous restoration. Shrub and grass ecosystems are predominantly located on higher elevations, consisting of juniper, hawthorn and rose hip.
About 1 500 plant species are listed in this area. The Reserve hosts various endemic species of Bulgaria and the Balkans and a number of species listed on IUCN Red List. The area is a home to Albanian lily, karst lucerne and many others. In terms of faunistic diversity, about 130 species of birds are present here. The area is also home to wolf, fox and wild cat, as well as roe deer, wild boar and badger.
European Wilderness Quality Standard
Auditors of the European Wilderness Society audited 450 ha of Kongura Strict Reserve. The 450 ha Kongura Wilderness is in alignment with the European Wilderness Quality Standard. The upcoming Quick-Audit will enable this Wilderness to be further expanded.