By Marija Tegovska
Skadar Lake, with an area of 391 square km, is the largest lake in the Balkans and is located in the Skadar valley. Montenegro owns 2/3 of the lake, while 1/3 is part of the territory of the Republic of Albania. The Montenegrin part of the lake was declared a national park in 1983. In 1996 the Ramsar Convention added Skadar Lake to the list of wetlands of international importance. The lake is a crypt, which means that most of it lies below sea level. The coastline is indented with numerous bays, peninsulas and capes, mostly marshland overgrown with reeds.
Skadar lake is a paradise for bird. It has 264 species of birds, many of which are vulnerable. Rare species like the Dalmatian pelican have become a trademark of Skadar Lake National Park. Lake Skadar also includes habitats of seagulls and herons and is abundant in fish, especially carp, bleak and mackerel. Skadar Lake is an ecological oasis of tranquility and close contact with nature. Its clear water and preserved environment have enable the development of a rich ecosystem, home to the only pelicans in Southern Europe.
Counting the birds in Skadar Lake National Park is one of the most important actions in the framework of biodiversity monitoring and in the protection of nature and the environment in Montenegro. These findings provide the protection, conservation and planning evaluation of the natural resources in the framework of sustainable development in the park. In 2013 only around half the number birds were counted compared to the year before and ornithologists believe that this is a consequence of poaching , despite the Parliament of Montenegro banning hunting in the National Park by passing the Special Purpose Spatial Plan in 2001. Ornithologists counted about 89,000 birds, though using the same method 155,000 were counted in 2012.
In terms of the protection of the Mediterranean, Bird Life International considers Skadar Lake, the Adu Bojana delta and Ulcinj salt pans to occupy a special place due to their global significance. Montenegro is one of the most important areas in the world for bird migration. Some of these birds on the lake and on Adu migrate from the Arctic from areas such as New Earth in Russia, one of the northernmost points in the world.
So the lake and Ada Bojana are treasures that Montenegro must save for the rest of the planet. Because of poaching and other factors, the population of pelicans on Lake Skadar now number only ten pairs, which is the very minimum possible for their survival. Bird Life International recognizes that we must respond urgently if they are to be saved.
“The pelicans of Lake Skadar could disappear tomorrow if something urgent is not done,” says Portal Analytics’ Borut Rubinić, ornithologist and coordinator for the Balkans in the framework of CEPF (Fund for Critically Endangered Ecosystems). According to Rubinić, this is one of the most vital areas of the planet. The bird migration path is a broad area, which in Montenegro abruptly narrows due to the marshy areas of lakes and salt pans, which are hyper-productive places for birds and do not have an adequate replacement.