Wilderness Network News

Pristine WILDIslands on the Danube

Recently, the European Wilderness Society visited Persina Nature Park, a Bulgarian jewel on the Danube. This wetland area is one of the youngest nature parks in Bulgaria. Many of its numerous Danube islands are fully kept in their natural, breathtaking state, without any human intervention. Looking at the flooded forests and rich wildlife, these islands are exemplary paradise in Europe. The aim of this pre-audit was to search for potential WILDIslands in this Danube treasure.

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Persina Nature Park was established in 2000 with the intention to restore and conserve Danube wetlands. The park got its name after the largest Danube island in Bulgaria, Persin Island. This is a 15 km long and 6 km wide island which is part of the Belene Island Complex. Belene Island Complex is the largest Ramsar site in Bulgaria, encompassing an area of 18300 ha. It consists of one large and several smaller islands in the Danube, just opposite to the town of Belene. The most important type of ecosystems in the complex are the floodplain forests along the Danube and inland marshes.

River paradise

The uniqueness of this area is the natural, dense willow and poplar forests as well as inland marshes along the Danube, rich in biodiversity. For the preservation of these habitats several protected areas have been designated. These are the Kitka and Milka island reserves, as well as the Persinski blata reserve.

These wetlands and marches provide an autumn gathering of the black stork and a great trophic base for birds of prey. They are the only breeding place for various rare and threatened birds. These include the spoonbill, ferruginous duck, pygmy cormorant, corn crake and many different species of herons and terns. Moreover, it provides refuge to some of the world’s most endangered species like the the red-breasted goose, the dalmatian pelican and the white-tailed eagle. The white-tailed eagle is one of the rarest breeding bird species in Bulgaria. For it’s presence in such impressive numbers, it is also the symbol of Persina Nature Park.

Otter, deer, wild boar, wildcat, polecat, fox and golden jackal are among the mammals that commonly inhabit the territory of the park. Characteristic of the park are also various sturgeon fish, and the Danube herring, among others.

Successful discussions

The European Wilderness Society auditors received a warm welcome by the staff of Persina Nature park. Together they elaborated on potential Wilderness within the territory of the park. They also visited Persin island marches and closely observed Milka islands. Even during such an autumn endeavor, the marches were occupied by dalmatian pelicans, cormorants and various waterfowl.

After a day of discussions and field assessments, the European Wilderness Society found that due to their pristine, untouched state, Kitka and Milka islands are potential WILDIslands, together with Persinski Blata potential Wilderness canditate. The next steps are currently in preparation.

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