BirdLife: The Magazine Jan-Mar 2018 - Page 27

killed for their beaks, which are used as horse scrapers—highly-valued symbols of wealth. However, more than half the global Dalmatian Pelican population is found mainly in remote steppe and wetland regions of Russia and Kazakhstan, where circumstantial data suggest some populations are on an upward trend. “We have a hypothesis that the increase is connected to climate change”, says Catsadorakis. “But we don’t have a clear picture of what is happening in these vast areas.” “Our knowledge of Dalmatian Pelicans is best in Europe, and we have a great conservation network here,” says Anna Staneva, BirdLife’s Species Conservation Officer for Europe & Central Asia. “We’re currently producing a new ten-year international Species Action Plan (SAP) which aims to continue the increase in Europe, and fill in the gaps for the other two flyways.” The SAP is led by HOS (BirdLife Greece), as part of the EU-funded LIFE EuroSAP project run by BirdLife. So why such an increase in Europe? Look out from the shore of Prespa Lake in Greece, and that huge white blob in the middle is about 1,400 Dalmatian Pelicans, the largest colony in the world, and a major tourist attraction. Catsadorakis has dedicated almost two decades of his life to pelican conservation. He says that research and action by Tour du Valat-based Alain Crivelli, then the Society for the Protection of Prespa, showed the way for successful pelican conservation, and this colony became a source population that spread out to bolster existing European colonies or even create new ones in Greece and Bulgaria. One successful Jan-Mar 2018 • birdlife colony, created at an irrigation reservoir at Kerkini in Greece (with highly-fluctuating water levels), is entirely reliant on tall artificial nesting platforms. The running theme, however, is that if you stop people from disturbing pelican raft- romances, colonies flourishes. “The problems facing pelicans, especially disturbance, have not been solved on a permanent basis in Europe”, Catsadorakis warns. “They cannot be left uncared for, else they will quickly perish.” At Skadar, Prakljacic agrees: one large disturbance event could cause the abandonment of the rafts. And the human pressure on Skadar’s shores means that there are no other suitable nesting sites. Thus, those nesting rafts and the continued conservation effort supporting them, are keeping the species afloat—both literally, and metaphorically. Whilst the improvement in the Dalmatian Pelican’s status is inspiring and certainly cause for celebration, we cannot afford to stop. By definition, the Red List presents a snapshot in time of a species’ extinction risk, and the latest data show that Dalmatian Pelican currently qualifies as Near Threatened. Nearly threatened, indeed. “It’s very encouraging that results come where you put in efforts”, says Zeković. “But it also means we have more to protect, because we have more to lose.” This is why it’s so special that this work could also come from Pelikani Malesija and other local communities in the future. “The moment a fishermen gets an income from pelicans, our work is done”, says Prakljačić. “And they’ve already seen their beauty; the time of the pelican is coming again.” Andrej Vizi, Natural History Museum of Monetenegro, sets up the camera on a nesting raft Photo Jaime Rojo / The Living Med 4 The grey, ever-watchful eye of a Dalmatian Pelican Photo Bence Mate/Agami 0 DEDICATED TO THE PELICAN PROTECTORS Special thanks for work at Skadar by CEPF project grantees: Noé Conservation, Public Enterprise National Parks Montenegro, Natural History Museum of Montenegro, CZIP, EuroNatur, Tour du Valat, INCA; the Skadar Ranger Service; and to unknown traditional fisherman. 27