Colony of shy Albanian pelicans flourishes during pandemic

Jul 1, 2021, 12:06 AM | Updated: 4:09 am
Pelicans fly over Divjaka-Karavasta Lagoon, western Albania, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.The pandemic ha...

Pelicans fly over Divjaka-Karavasta Lagoon, western Albania, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.The pandemic has brought one good thing to the Divjaka-Karavasta Lagoon in western Albania - calmness for the pelicans and increase of their numbers. Officials of the Regional Agency of Protected Areas say number of the pelicans' reproductive couples has increased by one-fifth in the last two years, from 68 in 2019 to 85 in 2020 and the same this year. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

(AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

DIVJAKA, Albania (AP) — The pandemic has brought one good thing to western Albania’s Divjaka-Karavasta Lagoon — badly needed peace and quiet for endangered mating pelicans, and resulting population growth.

Regional environmental officials say nesting pairs have increased by one-fifth in the last two years, from 68 in 2019 to 85 this year, even as numbers of human visitors have halved. They’re huge birds, reaching up to six feet (nearly two meters) in length and 11 feet (more than three meters) in wingspan.

The seaside Divjaka-Karavasta National Park covers around 22,000 hectares (55,000 acres), including a long sandy beach, a saltwater lagoon dotted with mudflats and tiny islands and a strip of pine forest. Situated 90 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the capital, Tirana, it’s home to around 260 bird species.

But it’s best known for the “curly pelicans,’ as the locals call the giant Dalmatian Pelicans, who have their only nesting colony in Albania here — on minute Pelican Island where they spend December to June.

Pelicans are an endangered species in Albania, where their numbers fell in 2001-2003 to as low as 19 nesting couples, compared to 250 a century ago.

“Peace and quiet during the pandemic has helped us a lot in the preservation of Pelican Island,” said Adrian Koci, head of the Regional Agency of Protected Areas.

In 2014 Koci and his staff of fewer than two dozen started to take care of the 150-200 square-meter (1,600-2,150 square-foot) islet.

People in boats were banned from approaching nearer than 200 yards (180 meters). A net kept fishing boats away. And a 24-hour guard was installed in a small cottage across the water to protect them. Small wooden fences along parts of the waterways prevent erosion.

Koci regularly checks on the island with a drone during the January-June reproductive period.

“We have freed the island of the fishermen who disturbed the pelicans. We have raised their nests threatened by the tide,” he said. “But intensive fishing around has, nevertheless, reduced the number of fish the pelicans eat.”

Koci, a veterinarian, also cares for other injured birds from as far afield as neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro. A few years ago, the U.N. Development Program helped him launch Albania’s first bird recovery center.

A rare vulture found injured in Montenegro was treated for two months there and then let free to continue its trip toward Africa.

Two Dalmatian Pelicans, named Johnny and Vlashi, have called the center home for the past three years. Johnny can’t fly because of a damaged wing. But Vlashi can, and both are relaxed with visiting tourists. Staff regard them as part of their family, and often buy fish themselves to feed them.

Since the initial UNDP funding, the center has had little financial support — from donors, a small volunteer money-collecting box, even contributions from its staff.

This creates a dilemma: The site is increasingly popular with visitors, not always an advantage when dealing with shy birds need calm to reproduce. From 1,300 in 2014, visitors rose to a difficultly manageable 550,000 in 2019. Last year, that number was halved because of the pandemic. Staff say that on the whole it would be better to regain visitors lost to the coronavirus restrictions as their donations are badly needed.

Klara Perinova, 28, drove from Prague to spend two weeks in Albania with her boyfriend. She praised Divjaka’s “undiscovered beauty.”

“We’re here (because) you have a very beautiful nature, really endangered species, not the same nature you can see in other parts of Albania,” she said.

Koci is trying hard to preserve the largely undisturbed environment of the lagoon, urging local authorities to replace the engines of the five boats used by tourists with electric ones, or to install more solar power panels.

Limya Eltayeb, the UNDP’s resident representative, said the U.N. organization is supporting Albania in implementing “nature-based solutions” in Divjaka and elsewhere, and helping the center to become self-sustainable — beyond the small state funding and private donations.

“Tourists are made welcome here, including by Johnny and Vlashi,” said Ervin Allushi, one of the center’s experts. “Visitors often help (financially). Although the pelicans over there on the islet don’t want them nearby.”

___

Follow Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A customer pumps gas at an Exxon gas station, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Miami. Gasoline prices are ...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: How is inflation affecting commuting costs?

NEW YORK (AP) — Gas prices have fallen from the record highs they reached earlier this summer, but they’re still much higher than a year ago. And with inflation driving up the cost of pretty much everything else, finding the funds to cover your commute may be increasingly tricky. “Being able to get to work […]
19 hours ago
This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows a large wildfire i...
Associated Press

Large wildfire burning amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

HONOLULU (AP) — A large wildfire in a rural area of Hawaii’s Big Island is not threatening any homes, but high winds and extremely dry conditions are making it difficult for crews to contain the blaze. The fire started in the western reaches of the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area, which is above the town […]
19 hours ago
In this undated photo provided by Masih Alinejad, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, Alinejad, an Iranian opposi...
Associated Press

Man arrested near home of Iranian dissident faces gun charge

NEW YORK (AP) — A man arrested in New York City last month near the home of an Iranian opposition activist and writer has been indicted on a weapons count. The indictment charges Khalid Mehdiyev with one count of possessing a firearm, a Chinese-made AK-47-style assault rifle, with an obliterated serial number. Police arrested Mehdiyev […]
19 hours ago
This image released by Netflix shows Jamie Foxx, left, and Snoop Dogg in a scene from "Day Shift." ...
Associated Press

Review: Jamie Foxx hunts vampires in comedy ‘Day Shift’

This year marks the centennial anniversary of F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu,” a long time for us humans but only a blip for vampires. If you were looking to celebrate the birthday of that silent classic, which still casts a long and ominous shadow over all vampires films that have followed, you could do it with […]
19 hours ago
FILE - A motorist fills up the tank on a sedan, on July 22, 2022, in Saratoga, Wyo. Gasoline prices...
Associated Press

Gas prices dip just below $4 for the first time in 5 months

DALLAS (AP) — Gasoline prices have dipped under $4 for the first time in more than five months — good news for consumers who are struggling with high prices for many other essentials. AAA said the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.99 on Thursday, down from the mid-June record of $5.02. However, […]
19 hours ago
Kareim McKnight, center, talks to reporters during a press conference outside Chase Center, announc...
Associated Press

Protester: San Francisco paramedic sedated her involuntarily

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A protester has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the city of San Francisco claiming that a paramedic, under the direction of a police sergeant, injected her against her will with a sedative while she was handcuffed after being removed from a Golden State Warriors championship game for demonstrating in favor […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Colony of shy Albanian pelicans flourishes during pandemic