Pel­i­cans back to king­dom:

Dis­cov­ery

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

With feath­ers on its head that make it look like it is wear­ing a wig, it does not go un­no­ticed — the Dal­ma­tian pel­i­can is back with a flour­ish in the Div­jaka La­goon in west­ern Al­ba­nia.

The ex­pan­sive site is one of the most im­por­tant wet­lands in the Adri­atic basin, key for mi­gra­tory wildlife and as a breed­ing area for the large el­e­gant pel­i­can.

But like other spots in Europe, the pic­turesque la­goon has suf­fered ex­ten­sive dam­age at the hands of man and the Dal­ma­tian pel­i­can came close to de­sert­ing it.

Now a re­turn in force of the bird, whose wing­span reaches up to three me­tres (10 feet), is down to a proac­tive pol­icy by Al­ba­nian au­thor­i­ties, of­ten crit­i­cised for be­ing pas­sive on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

“The king has re­turned this win­ter,” said Fatos Jolla hap­pily, a 67-year-old fish­er­man on the la­goon.

Since the 1980s, Europe’s bird pop­u­la­tion has de­clined by sev­eral tens of mil­lions, ac­cord­ing to or­nithol­o­gists.

The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN) has in­cluded the Dal­ma­tian pel­i­can (Pele­canus cris­pus) on its red list as it be­lieves that 80 per­cent of its breed­ing sites in Europe have dis­ap­peared.

At the Div­jaka La­goon, the pel­i­cans had al­most com­pletely aban­doned their nests, al­though pre­vi­ously “the Div­jaka-Kar­avasta Na­tional Park was con­sid­ered its king­dom,” said its head, Adrian Koci.

“From 250 breed­ing pairs in the 1960s, we ar­rived at 17 in 2000-2001.

“We re­turned to 52 pairs and 57 births in 2017,” he told AFP.

A small is­land of 22 sq kms (eight square miles), in the mid­dle of the la­goon, has been cru­cial to help­ing lure back the birds.

The nest­ing sites were raised so as not to be threat­ened by the ris­ing wa­ter, barbed wire has been placed to pre­vent tourists from ac­cess­ing and hunt­ing was banned in 2016.

A pel­i­can was shot in mid-Fe­bru­ary, but the hun­ters were iden­ti­fied and face two to four years in prison.

The re­cov­ery is frag­ile and saw a set­back re­cently, Koci said.

“The trend was promis­ing un­til Fe­bru­ary. But bad weather, snow and wind dis­turbed the colony.

“Some pel­i­cans have even aban­doned their nests and eggs,” said Koci, who hopes to see the birds re­turn in April. (AFP)

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