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Montenegrin Migrants

Growing network is helping

The BirdLife Partnership is building a growing network of people and organisations who are working together to look after migrant birds in the Mediterranean.

Each country in the Mediterranean faces very specific cultural, social and political challenges as part of their mission to protect migratory birds.

However, the true strength of this international project is the formation of a Mediterranean network, where expertise and experience can be shared between NGOs. The creation of this NGO network and the national level conservation action implemented in eight countries is already generating many wins for migratory birds in a number of countries across the Mediterranean region.

Here is an update from Montenegro.

Montenegro, in the Balkans, is a small country visited by millions of birds. It holds major wetland sites that are crucial places for birds to stop and refuel at during their migration. However birds stopping here are under a massive hunting pressure, with lack of law enforcement blurring the line between legality and illegality.

There are also more problematic visitors to the Balkans - hunting tourists. The organisation of this lucrative and unsustainable business is not yet fully understood, but we do know many Italian hunters exacerbate the problem with a big injection of money.

With many hunters also comes much disturbance, which the birds suffer from immensely in Montenegro. Even legal hunters coming to shoot a particular duck species do not realise they are scaring other species away from important feeding grounds and impacting the rest of their migration.

After many years of effort, CZIP (Centre for the Protection of Birds; BirdLife in Montenegro) has for the first time secured a hunting ban at one of its major wetland stop-overs, Lake Sasko. CZIP has been working with a local hunting organisation and it is actually them that have proclaimed the two-year hunting ban at the lake.

This is an excellent result for CZIP who are now monitoring the birds’ reaction to the ban. Like in the calm after a storm, birds will be able to return to the lake without hindrance and early next year, in the waterfowl census, CZIP will be able to work out the total natural capacity of the lake.

Colliding with wind turbines

With the low morning sun warming tired wing muscles, and oblivious to the luck of their survival, some birds take-off to continue along their migratory route from Balkan wetlands. They are safely fed, rested and watered beyond the gunfire, but these birds still face unknown challenges ahead.

BirdLife Partners are finding dead migratory birds beneath wind farms and powerlines, so sensibly locating energy infrastructure in the Mediterranean is becoming increasingly important.

In Montenegro there is a great opportunity: there are currently no wind farms in the country, so surely developers have a chance to prove their responsibility? With development proposals coming in, it is only thanks to CZIP and their collaborators as part of the Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation initiative that the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of prospective wind farms are starting to be taken seriously in the country.

“We have seen some ‘dirty’ Environmental Impact Assessments”, said Darko Saveljic, Ornithologist at CZIP. “One was based on research from less than one day in the field for a whole year.”

After almost a year of difficult negotiations, CZIP have established a new standard for wind farm EIAs that, rather than complementing the investor’s needs, gives appropriate consideration to birds and wildlife. Now developers must go into the field for a certain number of days’ research and involve many ornithologists in order for their EIA to be verified.

“What is most important is that this has been achieved in consensus with all relevant organisations, institutions and all the ornithologists in the country”, said Darko. “So, with continued monitoring of the process, Montenegrin bird fauna should be adequately protected from wind farms in the future.”

Martin Fowlie

28th January 2015