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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 124-135

Convivial Conservation from the Bottom Up: Human-Bear Cohabitation in the Rodopi Mountains of Bulgaria

1 Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria
2 Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence Address:
Svetoslava Toncheva
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_208_20

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This article describes a case of human-bear cohabitation in the Rodopi mountains (Yagodina-Trigrad area) of Bulgaria. The lack of protected areas in the region and the increasing number of brown bears (Ursus arctos) have resulted in both human-wildlife conflicts and the development of mechanisms and practices to facilitate cohabitation in the absence of formal rules to regulate coexistence of human and nonhuman species. However, these mechanisms and practices are currently undergoing transformations due to newfound protection of the species under national and EU legislation, respectively. The paper explores these dynamics through a case study of relatively successful cohabitation in the region. Our analysis identifies and outlines local adaptation and conservation mechanisms developed to live with bears as well as strategies to benefit from the bears' presence. In this way, the study contributes to current debates concerning how to best facilitate 'convivial conservation' promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife by identifying factors in this case that have facilitated a bottom-up approach to cohabitation that might be tested or adopted for use in similar situations elsewhere.

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