The Return of the Neophron project won the Natura 2000 Award


Photo: EU Environment

The LIFE project “The Return of the Neophron” won the Cross-border cooperation and Networking Award at the Natura 2000 Awards Ceremony in Brussels on 17 May 2018.

In 2011, four partners – BSPB from Bulgaria, HOS and WWF from Greece and RSPB from UK joined forces to halt the decline of the Egyptian vulture population in the Balkans. Recognizing the specific requirements of this long-distance migrant, the partners also took steps to broaden their cross-border approach to other countries along the species’ flyway.

Partners invested in efforts to stop the illegal trade of Egyptian vultures and eggs in the Balkans. A total of 178 Custom Officers were trained in Greece and Bulgaria, while international cooperation at the level of INTERPOL and international customs authorities was promoted. Intense capacity building and networking in Bulgaria also helped 1400 farmers to apply for agri-environment payments and thus nearly 100,000 ha of pastures within the Natura 2000 network are now being managed for the benefit of the Egyptian vulture and other wildlife. In addition, networking with public and private electricity transmission companies has resulted in the insulation of over 400 dangerous electricity pylons in both Greece and Bulgaria.

At an international level, the project has succeeded in achieving very fruitful cross- border collaboration. The clearest example is the successful development of the Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of Egyptian Vulture (EVFAP) which is a key element of the Convention of Migratory Species’ Vulture’s Multi-Species Action Plan. This document is the culmination of over two years of work and collaboration of 26 countries along the flyway of the species and many experts and is expected to be vital for the future of the species. Another successful example of cross-border cooperation with local institutions (SCF and APLORI) was the discovery of a yet unidentified threat to the Egyptian vulture. In some parts of Africa (Niger, Nigeria), vultures were being killed to use their body parts in traditional medicine. An even more impressive achievement was the decommissioning and replacement of a power line in Sudan, known to have electrocuted hundreds and perhaps thousands of individuals since its construction in the 1950s.

The six winners of the 2018 Natura 2000 Awards include activities on Natura 2000 sites in Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, and a trans-boundary project involving sites in Greece and Bulgaria with the United Kingdom as a partner.

The winners in the other 5 categories are:

Conservation Award - “Partnership to stop the poisoning of imperial eagles ” - ME BirdLife Hungary, 20 Natura 2000 sites in Hungary

Communication - "Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity" - SEO / BirdLife; Agencia EFE

Reconciling interests/perceptions - "Co-existing with bears in the 21st century: Difficulties and achievements”- Callisto

Socio-Economic Benefits - LIFE to alvars: restoration and grazing reintroduction for 2500 hectares of Estonian alvar grasslands” - Environmental Board of Estonia,16 Natura 2000 sites in Estonia

European Citizens’ Award -School of Nature” project in Portugal.


Two more BSPB projects were nominated for the prestigious awards: the Project “Safe Ground for Redbreasts” and “The Salt of LIFE” Project.


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