A floating platform in Skadar Lake entices pelicans to build their nests here, protecting them from floods. (Courtesy of Natural History Museum of Montenegro)
The Dalmatian pelican, with a wingspan of over 9 feet, is the largest pelican and one of the largest living birds. (Francisco Márquez / The Living Med)
Skadar Lake is a vast wetland between Montenegro and Albania. It is one of the largest bird reserves in Europe and home to the westernmost breeding colony of the threatened Dalmatian pelican, one of the largest birds in the world.
In 2013, ten organizations started a collaborative conservation project led by French nonprofit Noe Conservation with the goal of protecting the colony and improving breeding success. The partnership increased patrols and worked with local fishers to educate them on how to respect the pelican, especially during breeding season.
These measures are working: Vaselj Donaj, a fisher from Podhum, Montenegro, explains: “We live with these pelicans; they are day and night in front of our homes. We are all fishers, and Skadar Lake is the biggest treasure we have, if we know how to preserve it.”
But there’s also another key to the conservation program.
Skadar Lake has always been subject to seasonal floods, and so the Dalmatian pelican builds nests that float and can withstand sudden water level changes of up to a foot and a half. But Albania’s construction of hydropower dams over the last 50 years has blocked the lake’s only outflow to the sea, increasing the likelihood of large floods.
”Wild beauty “is the tourism slogan used to describe one small country in the Balkans, which is still unknown to many. It is the youngest and the smallest Slavic state, Montenegro. Montenegro became an independent state by separating from Serbia in a referendum in 2006. Over the centuries the people of Montenegro was attacked by invaders from the East and the West. Despite all the difficulties…