New visitor center revitalizes Albania’s sole curly pelican nesting place

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 25, 2018 17:07

New visitor center revitalizes Albania’s sole curly pelican nesting place

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  • “This new visitor centre and the work of the rangers will contribute to the protection of the flora and fauna of the park and will play a key role in educating people on the proper behavior in the park and help raise awareness on the ecosystem values of the park," said Sylvain Gambert, a representative of the EU Delegation to Albania

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Divjaka-Karavasta national park: Photos: EU Delegation to Albania

TIRANA, June 25 – A new visitor center has been launched at the Divjaka-Karavasta national park, a wetland and lagoon 90km south of the capital Tirana which is home to the endangered Curly Pelican.

The EU-funded center now offers a new experience for visitors who can now ride around the park, learn everything about the amazing nature and understand how to best respect and preserve it.

The center also offers better facilities for park rangers to ensure that this unique ecosystem is protected, including the famous Dalmatian Pelicans, says the EU Delegation to Albania which is supporting the country to strengthen its capacity in nature protection and expand the coverage of protected areas throughout the country through the “NaturAL” project.

“Legislation and law enforcement is essential and rangers that will work here will play a key role in safeguarding the nature of Divjaka. This new visitor centre and the work of the rangers will contribute to the protection of the flora and fauna of the park and will play a key role in educating people on the proper behavior in the park and help raise awareness on the ecosystem values of the park,” said Sylvain Gambert, a representative of the EU Delegation to Albania speaking at an inauguration ceremony last week.

Fier Prefect Baki Bala described the new visitor center as bringing value added not only for the Divjaka-Karavasta National Park, but also for the entire area.

“This center will link nature and visitors, providing adequate information and rising respect for the site,” he was quoted as saying.

Albania’s National Agency of Protected Areas says the EU-funded “NaturAL” project has supported the state-run agency in undertaking important steps for a better conservation of Albania’s natural heritage, in particular liaising with the Regional Administration of Protected Areas and relevant NGOs to preserve and enhance the values of Divjaka – Karavasta National Park.

karavastaThe new center offers detailed information on Divjaka-Karavasta National Park unique ecosystem and its rich biodiversity. Inside the centre, there is a corner dedicated to the children where they can explore the park’s flora and fauna. A small shop, managed by a local NGO, offers souvenirs with park landscape and its pride, the Dalmatian Pelican.

Divjaka-Karavasta is home to the Dalmatian Pelican and its only nesting place in Albania. The park and its lagoon is also considered an important resource for the development of the sustainable tourism and economic activities of the local community.

The EU says new visitor centers will also be set up at the Llogara park, southern Albania where the Adriatic meets the Ionian Sea, and at Mount Dajti, outside Tirana.

Albania’s protected areas cover 18 percent of country’s territory, something which experts describe as an outstanding national value in preserving natural habitats and sustaining biodiversity, but also offering recreation and enjoyment and contributing to sustainable economic development while safeguarding the territory against natural hazards.

Green, sustainable, responsible tourism is steadily growing and is an important economic input that is increasingly realised within protected areas – through ecotourism activities such as hiking, biking, canoeing, bird watching and so on, say experts of the EU-funded NaturAL project.

 

Divjaka-Karavasta lagoon

 

About 5 percent of the entire worldwide population of the Curly Pelican breed at the Karavasta Lagoon, which has been under the Ramsar Convention protection since 1994. However, only a few dozen have survived in the past two decades due to illegal hunting.

Inside the lagoon, there is a small sandy island where flocks of pelicans typically come together. The Curly Pelican is considered an endangered species and the numbers of this bird continue to decrease worldwide.

The Lagoon has a surface of 4,330 ha and is the largest lagoon of the Albanian coast and one of the largest along the Adriatic. Soft and wild pines dominate the lagoon where the large crown pines stand out. The multistory forest is very rich in herbals and tall woods. The nearby Divjaka sea sand is rich in iodine and temperatures above 20 degree Celsius start from the second half of May and continue until the beginning of October. The site is national park where beach activities mix with eco-tourism.

In this ecosystem, there are 210 kinds of birds, 12 kinds of mammals and 16 kinds of reptiles. Lagoon waters of about 1.5 meters deep are rich in fish, especially mullet and eel, which are served in many restaurants on the Divjaka beach. The flora of the National Park of Divjaka is famous for its beauty and special freshness.

Lonely Planet, which in 2011 placed Albania as the number one global destination to visit, suggests the Divjake-Karavasta national park as the top destination for tourists taking bird-watching tours in the wetland areas of Albania’s Adriatic coast.

According to the Albanian Ornithological Society, which also runs bird-watching tours, Karavasta offers shelter to more than 245 species of birds.

Last year, a proposed billion dollar mass tourism resort at the Karavasta Lagoon triggered strong reaction by Albanian environmentalists worried over the development project, putting at risk the local ecosystem and its flora and fauna, including the already endangered Dalmatian Pelican population. The Kosovo company which proposed the project has temporarily withdrawn from its development plans following strong public reaction.

The Divjaka-Karavasta national park spans over a surface of 22,230 hectares offering a variety of habitats such as a river delta, lagoons, sand dunes and rich flora and fauna.

The park is also known for its sandy beaches, pine forests and trekking.

Albania is home to an impressive number of species of birds that vary from residents, that stay all year around, to breeding birds that spend a good part of the growing season in the country to raise their young, migrants who pass through the country with the seasons, to wintering birds who like to spend a good part of the winter in Albanian to escape colder conditions up north.

Albania has banned hunting since 2014 in a bid to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s. The current ban is valid until 2021.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 25, 2018 17:07