Gea Chelonia Foundation: Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria: width=



Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria





Gea Chelonia Foundation: Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria

Bulgarian - Swiss partnership for development of the Gea Chelonia Foundation Tortoise centre


The project


The Tortoise centre is the only one of its kind in the country and annually provides care and treatment to hundreds abused tortoises. It has been included in the Order of the Ministry of Environment and Water No Rd-826/02.11.2012 for determining the places that meet the features of wildlife rescue centres. In the end of 2013 it faced the need to meet the European standards for working with turtles in rescue centres in terms of infrastructure, expertise, methodology and human resources. This is the main challenge for the development of TBRC in relation to which the project is being developed. Bulgarian-Swiss partnership will support the TBRC in its further development and implementation of high standards of work.

The partnership with the Swiss organization Schildkroteninteressengemeinschaft Schweiz (SIGS) supported the Tortoise centre in its further development and raised its effectiveness and role as a rescue, tourist, and scientific centre. Our joint action included following: consulting in tortoise breeding, housing and rehabilitation; improving the conditions related to the tortoise care and tourist services; development and distribution of herpetological tourism, attracting tourist and scientists in tortoise conservation. The SIGS role was to outlook the effectiveness of the centre's work, to fix the weak points; to give consultation and carry out training of the staff in order to surmount obstacles to its development and to achieve high effectiveness and European standard. The partner was engaged to make the Tortoise centre popular in Switzerland and to connect our team with Swiss tourists, herpetologists, and scientists.

The activities planned include training, consultation and adopting the standards of the European rescue turtle centres by means of the Swiss partner's experience; investment activities to optimize the infrastructure associated with the turtles and reception of visitors; development, implementation and promotion of the herpetological tourism; management, publicity, visibility and control of the project.

The Tortoise centre is situated in one of the few Black Sea tourist areas undisturbed by resort construction - a peculiar “island” rich in biodiversity surrounded by luxury resorts with huge tourist flow. It is not only a home of the Tortoise centre, but the object of a growing interest in ecotourism. The Centre serves a significant tourist flow, but revenues from entrance fees are minor. The goal of GCF is to extend its possibilities for herpetological tourism aimed at foreign tourists, with main focus tortoises - a new product for the country, filling a missing tourist niche. The visitors attracted by the herpetological tourism come from West- and North-Europe - mainly Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, ans Skandinavian countries. That's why we had to develop herpetological routes, to prepare and promote tour programs and packages. The availability of ready-made routes is essential for observing the animals in their natural environment. To ensure their findability into the wild their home ranges have to be accurately localized. The suitable habitats had to be studied during the activity period and the animals' finding points have been localized using GPS. The globally significant species have been searched and located within a radius of about 150-200 km from the Tortoise centre. Database with a photo album have been compiled of observed animals and habitats – the basis for creating a brochure representing destinations and services offered. We have drawn 7 tourist programs, offered in 5 packages for foreign tourists, including the services offered by the Centre: transfer from/to the airport/station in Varna or Burgas, accommodation in the Tortoise centre, local transport, tours for observing animals, habitats, protected areas, cultural sites, tortoise radio-tracking. The packages have been described in trilingual brochure and distributed to travel agencies.

The tourist programs we offer are 7:

Program 1. Tortoise discovery – a program in the tortoise centre

Program 2. Trip around the Eminska Mountain - the realm of the tortoises and one of the richest herpetological areas in Bulgaria

Program 3. Herpetological trips along the Black Sea coast

Program 4. Tortoise radio-tracking

Program 5. Tortoises and birds photography

Program 6. Trip to picturesque natural sites with gorgeous landscapes

Program 7. Sightseeing tour


The brochure is available here: