Pelicans back to kingdom:
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)