This year, “Wikimedians of Bulgaria” User Group participates for the second time with a local edition of the photo contest for environmentally protected territories, “Wiki Loves Earth 2016 Bulgaria“. And one of the ten winners in the national stage of the competition will be printed as an official postage stamp of the Republic of Bulgaria. This is the additional ‘surprise’ award, which the organizing team of the competition in 2016 arranged along with the planned prizes – vouchers for photographic equipment shops or bookshops, that will be provided under a project funded by the Wikimedia Foundation.
Which one of the ten photos would illustrate the postage stamp, was a decision taken by the members of the Committee of Postage Issuance under the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies. And this choice has already been made. It is the 2nd-ranked photography in Top 10, by Emiliya Toncheva, which depicts a griffon vulture in the Valchi Dol Reserve near the small town of Madzharovo in Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria. Notably, Emiliya was the first volunteer to contribute her photos to the “Wiki Loves Earth 2016 Bulgaria” in the very first day of the contest, June, 1.
The Committee approved the young illustrator Dilyana Elshishka for designer of the postage stamp, and determined the nominal of BGN 2 (approx. EUR 1), which is the price for sending a postcard from Bulgaria to United States, for example. This stamp will be in valid use and circulation for the next three years. The attempt is to have the stamp ready around October, 1 when the local WLE organizing team is conducting the award ceremony in the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia.
The photograph selected by the Committee of Postage Stamp Issuance is special because it will stay on the very first Wikimedia-related postage stamp in Bulgaria, which also is the first one for the “Wiki Loves Earth” contest globally.
The photo is noteworthy also for touching one of the most important topics of Bulgarian environmental protection: protection of the birds of prey. In Bulgaria, all the three nesting or feeding vulture species – Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) are rare and protected species, and the Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) has been since 2007 in a re-introduction program, because of being extinct from the territory of Bulgaria. And while the griffon vulture’s population can nowadays be considered stabilized, the Egyptian vulture continues to be the most rapidly declining among all birds of prey in Europe, with more than 80% decreased population in the Balkans for the last 30 years. Poisons intended to kill agricultural pests are the main reason for the extinction of vultures, whose ecologic role is the one of the natural sanitarians of wildlife.
Author and translator: Vassia Atanassova
Editors: Anelia Bobeva, Nikola Kalchev, Stanislav Yordanov
She is Katerina Zareva-Simeonova. She was the Bulgarian representative in the nine-person jury last year, which evaluated the photos at the International stage in the “Wiki Loves Earth” contest. The curious detail is that in 2015 the contest was organized in a total number of 26 countries, but not all of them had representatives in the jury. Bulgaria was invited to appoint a jury member, although the country takes part in the contest for the first time.
Due to the contest specifics, the appointed jury member had to be a biologist or ecologist with experience in photography. Katya is much more than that – she is also a big friend of the Free Encyclopedia. 🙂
After the “Wiki Loves Earth” contest finished and we announced the results, we asked Katya for an interview. We wanted to learn what it means to be a juror in a contest with so many breath-taking pictures…
Katya, present yourself in a couple of words. 🙂
My name is Katerina Zareva-Simeonova, I live in Sofia and my formal education is ecology. I have been working for 17 years in the Sofia Zoo, and I am currently the head of the Ecological scientific-educational centre in the Zoo. This is the department that accomplishes the Zoo’s function of providing education in ecology, develop educational materials and projects, one of which was the joint project with the Bulgarian version of the Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Apart from the area of zoology, my interests are related to photography and popular science documentaries. I have published photos of animals and nature in various journals and books, and I have authored more than 100 educational and documentary ecological films, mainly about Bulgarian nature.
You have been juror in other photo contests, too. Tell us more about them, and what made the difference with the “Wiki Loves Earth” contest?
Yes, I have juried for competitions for children photographs and pictures, as well for film competitions on national level. For me, it was a great pleasure to be part of the International Jury of such a public photo competition like WLE, with already shortlisted pictures from 26 countries around the world. We had to review and evaluate 259 photos, showing the nature and biodiversity in the protected areas in these countries. For this purpose, we were provided with a special software tool and system for evaluation, helping jurors to calmly and independently evaluate all the photos.
What were the criteria, which the jury used to evaluate the photos. What was the most difficult part of the contest for you?
The criteria for the “Wiki Loves Monuments” contest are specific, since the contest has the certain goal of stimulating people to take pictures of the nature in their countries and create and extend the freely licensed information in Wikipedia, and in Commons in particular. For this reason, the criteria of evaluation were: technical quality, originality, and encyclopedic and educational value.
What hindered me was the huge choice of pictures of high quality and intriguing content. That was challenging for my evaluation, that had to be a very accurate and objective one. In the same time, that was for me a thrilling aesthetic and cultural experience, unveiling for me unbelievably beautiful natural landmarks and sceneries I haven’t expected to exist. I think that the concourse delivered its message and accomplished its mission, getting me to know and love the Earth even more than before!
None of the Bulgarian photos has been distinguished among the Top 15. What did we miss, in your opinion?
The winning pictures from the Bulgarian national stage of the competition depicted landscapes and animals from the natural parks of Rousse Lom River, Vratsa Balkan, Belasitsa, Belogradchik Rocks, Strandzha, Pirin and Rila mountains. All of them were gorgeous and rightfully represent our nature. At least for me, the pictures that affected me mostly, were the Belogradchik Rocks and the panorama view from Peak Vihren in Pirin.
However, the competition was really tough, and I think that our pictures lacked some originality. Both the audience and the jury are satiated with visual information, they want more colour, more of the wow-effect. It’s no surprise that the winning picture is a landscape from Pakistan, featuring buildings. Humans need to see themselves and the trace they leave onto nature, in order to compare themselves with it.
Katya, you are the head of the Ecological scientific-educational centre in the Sofia Zoo. In your opinion, how such photo contests contribute to raising the society’s awareness about environmental issues?
First, the contest participants have the opportunity to express their attitude to nature and show a favourite place or animal of theirs. On the other hand, in this very competition, where images are made freely available, this message reverberates, carries knowledge, and is capable of changing the mindset of many people.
I believe that nowadays, when people are impatient enough to watch even several minutes of a video in the Internet, photography has a particularly pronounced and direct impact. An image can take the breath away and cause great excitement, especially if it captures a beautiful natural landscape. I still think that beauty can save the world, and this is why I rely on it, rather than on the aesthetic of ugliness or of shocking imagery.
Which picture was your personal favourite?
I won’t try to hide that for me the most interesting photos were the ones depicting animals. This is my field of expertise, and I well know how hard it is to take a picture of an animal, especially in wildlife. My favourite photo, which turned out to be favourite for the rest of the jury members as well, came from Brazil and captured the moment of birth of an Apis Mellifera drone. That image received the special jury prize in the contest.
When we talk about photos of animals, why is it important to have them pictured in their natural habitat?
Taking pictures of animals in their natural environment is critically important, as it raises the educational and encyclopedic value of the photos. Animals are part of a certain ecosystem, and must not be considered outside of it. Such images are the most appreciated ones and the ones most difficult to take, especially when it comes to species that inhabit a different from humans’ environment, like river and ocean species, birds in flight, or underground dwellers.
Nowadays, with the recent advance of technologies, cinema and photography have allowed us to peek into almost every corner of our planet and see amazing and intimate moments of the lives of its inhabitants. These images have a huge scientific value, too.
Katya, thank you for this interview, and for you being a juror in the Wiki Loves Earth contest! It was really important for us that we had an appointed representative in the International Jury, as of the first participation of Bulgaria in the concourse. And even more so, that our representative was you. 🙂
Interview and translation: Vassia Atanassova Editor: Maya Marinova
When Wozzy flew to us in the late evening of 31 May, a couple of hours before the start of the “Wiki Loves Earth 2016” in Bulgaria, he was approved unanimously by the organizers to become the contest’s mascot. He got the name ‘Wozzy’ from the Bulgarian translation of the abbreviation WLE, which sounds as ‘WOZ’.
Checking the field guide to the birds of Bulgaria, we could most accurately identify Wozzy as a Eurasian pygmy owl, representative of the Glaucidium passerinum species. From the Wikipedia article about the species, we learned that pygmy owls are the smallest owl species in Europe and Bulgaria, with body length of 15–19 cm, wingspan of 32–39 cm and weight up to about 80 grams. And, yes, with body length of 14 cm, wingspan of 19,5 cm and weight of 66 grams, our Wozzy is one really pygmy pygmy owl. When he understood which species we attribute him to, Wozzy didn’t mind and even hooted consentingly six times (well, not before we pressed the button on his belly).
Pygmy owls are wide spread in the boreal forests of Eurasia, and in the Central and Southern Europe they can only be found as a relict species in the mountains. The species’ conservation status is generally of least concern, but on the territory of Bulgaria it has been included in the Red Book of Endangered Species due to its paucity. Nesting pygmy owls have been detected in the three national parks in Bulgaria: “Central Balkan”, “Pirin” and “Rila”, and some other reserves like the Western Rhodopes and Slavyanka – all of them being locations included in the thematic scope of the “Wiki Loves Earth” photo contest, from where we encourage readers to send us their photos.
Wozzy is far from the only mascot of a Wikimedian event or initiative. Flying here with us, he not only joined the organization team of “Wiki Loves Earth”, but also joined the merry band of plushies from the Wikimedia Cuteness Association: Percy Plush, Wendy the Weasel, Peter the Wikiplatypus, Erminig the Stoat, Punky and Lars, and others. We will introduce Wozzy face to face with the rest of the plushies after several weeks in Italy, where, at the end of June, Wikimania, the annual conference of the global Wikimedian community, will take place, along with the third annual Cuteathon.