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Mrki medved; autor fotografije: Slobodan Botoški

Support Brown Bear Comeback in Serbia

Srpski jezik

The Brown Bear is the largest carnivore in Serbia, with 3 populations present. They are threatened by habitat loss, illegal killing, and more frequent interaction with humans. As numbers increase, frequent encounters lead to damage to livestock, crops and especially beehives. Low incomes and slow reactions from authorities in terms of compensation mean farmers administer their own justice by poisoning or shooting bears.

Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia’s aims to develop a network of brown bear-tolerant local farmers supporting active conservation measures.

Mrki medved_Područje sprovođenja projekta
Photo/Foto: Damir Trnovac

Bird Protection and Study Society of Sebia within this project will ensure that 10 farmers will receive bear-proof fencing for beehives and 10 farmers will receive shepherd dog puppies trained to scare away bears that get too close. 500 native plants and fruit saplings will provide bear food away from farms. Ecotourism will be encouraged to highlight the benefits of nature to the local population and a trail which visits the farmers and beekeepers en route will be developed.

Tim saradnika na projektu
Collaborators on the project activities; Photo by: Marko Šćiban

About the Project

This project will take part in the Zlatibor District which is our largest population of Brown Bears. Due to the legal protection of this species and the low density of people in this area, Brown Bear numbers are slowly increasing. This led to more frequent human-bear encounters in the area. Our main goal is to show the people who are most affected, that there are other, beneficial solutions for both them and Brown Bears.

Zlatibor District is characterized by wild nature, preserved forests, and a number of natural assets that bring people’s attention. Our actions would help certain households but would encourage many more to take steps toward nature-based solutions. Bear-caused damage prevention (fences, dogs, etc.) will directly include local farmers and beekeepers. Not only it will reduce their costs, but it will raise their interest in conservation.

We intend to use local and national media to promote these activities as well as do education and promotion of local eco-tourism.

Local tourist organizations will be helped as well, with promotion and expansion of the tourist offer.
Idea is to create a network of stakeholders that could maintain this conservation model and make it sustainable in years to come. Due to the increased bears numbers, and the vulture feeding sites in the project area which already attract over 35.000 people annually (mostly hikers and birdwatchers), we believe that these actions would further enhance the experience of outdoor enthusiasts.

By helping the locals with marketing and promotion, we would develop new streams of income through eco-tourism. A hiking/running trail will be marked, that would connect local farmers and beekeepers as checkpoints. That way we would gather a lot of people, make farmers visible, as well as promote their products in a single activity.

We will create a short film about the potential of the project area, that local tourist agencies could use for promotion. Short, themed videos would be filmed as well, that could be shared on social media, as most of the people spend time there. Video material will also be used on local and national media as a way to promote tourist offer that project area has to provide.

An educational brochure will be created and distributed as well. Every stakeholder meeting will be used for education and information exchange. Those brochures will be used as a practical tool to achieve that goal.

Prevention of bear-caused damages is the long-term solution for many problems that local communities face. That action would pay for itself in the long run. The other idea is to help the local community develop eco-tourism, which would bring them a stable income. We plan to do that by creating a hiking/running trail that will mark local farmers or beekeepers as checkpoints. That way tourists would enjoy all the local products the farmers and beekeepers have to offer, as well as enjoy nature. That trail could be used and promoted as a traditional event that could bring a stable income and development of the area in years to come.

Šteta prouzrokovana od strane medveda
Bear Damage; Photo by: Vjekoslav Joksimović

Also if we manage to create a network of local stakeholders we could give them the knowledge to apply to their project ideas, which could help them both in maintaining conservation efforts and make them more independent financially.

Project results would be presented and disseminated to the local decision-makers to steer their future eco-tourism strategies.

Objective 1) – Preventing bear-caused damages:

By providing the 10 most impacted farmers with bear-proof fences, and 10 farmers with shepherd dog puppies.
Fences will be bought and distributed as soon as our project begins. As for the puppies we need to meet certain requirements regarding mandatory vaccination, so those activities would be moved accordingly.

Objective 2) – Habitat restauration:

By planting 500 native wild fruits and traditional fruit varieties.
Fruit trees have their specific time for planting usually in February–March and later, in September–October. These activities would be completed throughout the project period according to the project timeframe.
With this objective, we plan to involve at least 50 volunteers.

Objective 3) – Developing eco-tourism:

We will film and edit a short 10-minute movie about all the potentials of the project area. At least 3 tourist organizations will use this movie to promote and improve their tourist offers. We will also make 3 short clips (up to 2 minutes) made for social media, in the same manner, to attract as many nature enthusiasts as possible. These actions will be performed in the first couple of months before large tourist fairs start. That could put local tourist organizations on the map, very fast.

We also plan to mark and promote a hiking/running trail and try to create a new event every year around it. This will surely engage a lot of people. The trail will connect farmers and beekeepers in the area as checkpoints in which hikers/runners could freshen up and try local products. That is the best way to promote local products and make locals visible.

We would also offer full branding solutions for the most valued local products such as honey for free as a way to help the local community.

Objective 4) – Education:

Creating and printing an educational 8-page brochure with a circulation of 500 copies would be the first project communication material. We would use it as a tool for information exchange and education of all the stakeholders we would have meetings with. The same brochures would be shared during the implementation of all the activities mentioned, so they could reach a wider audience. In remote mountain areas with low access to modern technology well designed printed material is the most convenient solution for informing and networking.

Authors of photographs:

Slobodan Botoški, Vjekoslav Joksimović, Damir Trnovac, Marko Šćiban, Milan Ružić

Project area map
Project area map

Cover photo: Slobodan Botoški