Wetlands are key ecosystems, home for a variety of flora and fauna species and particularly important for the biodiversity they represent therefore, safeguarding, protecting and improving the biological diversity is crucial. The nature conservation best practice is focused at a wetland complex in Albania with the status of a National Park, aiming the conservation of the Dalmatian pelican as a flagship species for the park. The Dalmatian pelican is one of the most important bird species present in Albania all year long. It is classified as Vulnerable (Vu) under the IUCN red list of species and nationally in Albania classified as Critically Endangered. First data about the presence of the Dalmatian pelican in Albania exist since 1905 by Lodge (1908), in Karavasta lagoon, exactly the same breeding island that the pelican’s colony use nowadays. In the past their breeding grounds were spread in different sites in Albania but nowadays only the last breeding ground remains, that of Karavasta lagoon, core part of Divjaka-Karavasta National Park. The colonies of pelican diminished in number due to habitat degradation, land use change (drainage programs), poaching, taxidermy also climate change gave its own effects. Historically, the pelican’s colony in Karavasta lagoon has been quite stable until the first years of 1960 with around 200-250 pairs, Lamani (1989). After that time the fishery management organization considered the pelican as a competitor related to fish resources so the colony witnessed major disturbance in the form of juvenile killings, nest damages, smashing of eggs etc. During 1990`s the number varied between 52 - 62 pairs (Peja et al. 1996, Bino 2003 and M. Stefi pers. com.) Until reaching the lowest critical point in 2001-2003 with only 19 breeding pairs affected by an unstable social and political situation domestically.
Fortunately, after these transitional phases with a lot of fluctuations, the colony was better monitored and guarded since 2003 onward. Significant conservation measures were taken specifically from 2014 to the present days where the colony is under continuous surveillance and protection. One of the key factors for affecting this very good conservation result is the implementation of the regional program "Wetland Management and Dalmatian Pelican Conservation in the Mediterranean Basin". The program is financed by Mava foundation and implemented in Albania by local organization as PPNEA, INCA always with the very good collaboration of state bodies, the Ministry of Environment(MoE) and National Agency of Protected Areas (NAPA). The work is coordinated and supported by the international organizations Noe Conservation, EuroNatur. The good results for the improvement of the Dalmatian pelicans colony is a great news not only for the nature conservation but also because of other benefits like the touristic attraction that offers this beautiful bird. Local people nowadays are aware that protecting birds is a win win situation as Divjaka-Karavasta National Park is now one of the main nature loving tourist destinations in Albania. Hopefully, with some good will from every stakeholder thing will change for better also in other problematic natural areas as the case shows in the example of the recovery of the Dalmatian pelican’s colony in Divjaka-Karavasta National Park.
In terms of developing and implementing NBSAP important component are protected areas as crucial part of its themes. In this case the best practice is presented through a nature conservation program implemented in a protected area emphasizing more the role that protected areas have in the implementation of the NBSAP. Safeguarding habitats and species that are found in these protected areas gives them the opportunity to thrive undisturbed which is one of the target to be achieved by the NBSAP. Maintaining in good conditions important habitats and achieving the goal toward protection gives us a clear panorama that what is the best way to deal with obstacles of this nature. By using nature conservation measures as an instrument for natural resource protection and improvement, as this best practice shows, helps also to the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Targets and its Strategic Goals together with their target.
Humans and nature have to exits in the same place called planet earth and find a balance to make possible that life will last as long as possible. In this case the conflict was present and quite obvious. Pelicans were considered a threat to humans related to fish resources also they were seen as an object of profit sometimes. For a long time, this perpetual state of hostility was at a very bad scale and degrading day after day. Without an intervention from outside the relationship between people and pelicans in Karavasta would have been always nor good nor improved. Additional and immediate conservation measured were needed to bring this coexistence to a different level where the community does not see the pelican as a threat, problem or as an object of direct interest on the contrary now it is considered the symbol of the region and a contributor to their local economy by attracting nature lovers, birders etc.
- Gathering necessary knowledge on Dalmatian pelican and its habitat for an optimal implementation of site-specific conservation plans for the Dalmatian pelican and of PAs management plan.
- Implementing a regional network of effectively managed PAs, thanks to improved local capacities.
- Engaging local communities in sustainable development, respectful of the Dalmatian pelican and its habitat.
- Mainstreaming environmental issues and threats to the Dalmatian pelican among communities, and therefore integrating environmental issues within relevant local policies and economic activities.
Looking at the situation of just a few years back where the management of the national park and the Dalmatian pelican conservation status, it is clear that there was a need for intervention. This change had to come from the collaboration of all stakeholders involved otherwise the chances for improvement of the critical situation would have been low. The challenge in the recovery of the Dalmatian pelican colony in Divjaka Karavasta National Park was very clear also complex at the same time. The situation of the species depended mostly from our role as a responsible society contributing to improvement and by doing that through good work and good will. The challenge here was a mixed contribution from management bodies, civil society and the local community. The contribution of each one is very important and valuable in this way combining traditional experience and knowledge with scientific research is one of the key successes of this case. The bottom line here is a lot of dedication, collaboration and good will from all direction make things work and progress for better.
Resulted impacts after the intervention were and are very good and promising for the future also. The work done for the conservation of the Dalmatian pelican and the work with the community has given good result. Since the beginning of the implementation of the project in 2014 there were only 37 pairs in the colony nowadays, there are 52 pairs, reaching the historical figure of 20 years ago. Also, the work done with the community is considered a vital step for the best implementation and we believe this is achieved. Today they do not only understand the importance of the species but some of them are involved deeply and directly in the protection of the pelican. A group of local people are now potential individuals as natural guides after attending training. Visitors number that come to visit Divjaka-Karavasta National Park are tripled lately showing lots of interest for the species and the natural diversity that the national park represents and offer.