Rare bat rediscovery in Albania

This video says about itself:

Bechstein’s Bat being handled by a licenced bat worker during box monitoring work.

From Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bat species rediscovered after 20 years in Vjosa River

Two decades after it was “lost”, the Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii) has been spoted by PPNEA researchers working in the Vjosa river banks. In the spring and summer of 2014, a team lead by our bat initiative coordinator Philippe Theou, surveyed for the presence of bat nursery roosts the south of Albania near the Vjosa river, one of the last wild rivers in Europe.

Between June and July 2014, two new observations of M. bechsteinii were recorded near the Vjosa river. One refers to a cave situated near the village of Mezhgoran, where a cluster numbering 16 bats was observed on the 14th June 2014. The other observation refers to the canyon of Lengarica near the village of Benjë, which is directly connected to the Vjosa River.

All these data represent the only records available in Albania since 1995, and increases the number of known locations from one to three in total. The number of data is unfortunately far too low to make any inference on the population status of this species. However, it seems clear that the woody banks of rivers of southern Albania represents important habitats for this species, as all the data available until now have been collected in locations situated at an approximate distance of 20m from the river bank.

Bechstein’s bat is a EU protected species since it is a rare species that occurs at low densities and has specific habitat requirements, such as Vjosa river banks. Its population is fragmented and its sedentary habits mean that it does not colonize new areas easily. As stated above, there is very little information on population trends, but it is suspected that the species is declining as a result of the loss and degradation of specific types habitats, compounded by other threats such as increased human disturbance due to ongoing construction of hydro-power plants in the river. This underlines the importance of these unique ecosystems which represents the last wild rivers in Europe, and point-out the need for future development measures for their protection and conservation.

For more information on this discovery please read the full text of the scientific article published at Ecologica Montenegrina journal by Philippe Theou and our good colleague Marina Djurovic from Montenegro. (click here to read the article).

Pelicans in Montenegro and Albania

This video from India is called Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus).

From BirdLife:

Cross-border cooperation with CEPF for Lake Skadar and its pelicans

By Shaun Hurrell, Tue, 01/07/2014 – 11:28

Nestled between Montenegro and Albania, Lake Skadar has always captured its visitors – both human and bird – with its wild beauty and rich nature. Known as Skadar Lake to Montenegrins, Shkodra to Albanians, and Scutari to others, this iconic wetland in the Balkans is one of the largest bird reserves in Europe and harbours one of the largest birds in the world – Dalmatian Pelican.

Like the lake itself is shared by Montenegro and Albania, the pelicans, other biodiversity and the health of the habitat is a shared responsibility not only of both countries, but the international community. CEPF*-funded projects at Lake Skadar are proving that effective collaboration by local and international civil society organisations can be the best way to make positive results for conservation. The most successful breeding season for the Dalmatian Pelican has just happened at this transboundary site as a consequence!

Dalmatian Pelican are a traditional symbol of Lake Skadar and more recently there has been a rich tradition of conservation effort and investment into sustainable management at the lake. CEPF experienced this first-hand when two calls for Mediterranean project proposals in 2012 were met with huge interest in Lake Skadar from 15 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). To proceed most effectively without ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth’, CEPF decided to organise and fund a workshop where all 15 NGOs plus 10 governmental and managing authorities met to settle on conservation priorities for the lake.

Learning from best-practice at Lake Prespa in Greece where the workshop was held, two project proposals emerged directly from the event that together aligned 10 organisations into collaborations for conserving Lake Skadar. CEPF is more than just a funding provider, it works to bring together and engage civil society for the long-term benefit of biodiversity.

Project 1: A new management system for Lake Skadar, 3 NGOs

A major priority for Lake Skadar is to have a sustainable management system that realistically includes the needs of the local Montenegrin and Albanian communities. Regardless of what side of the border they live, these people live on the lake shore and depend upon it for their livelihoods. So a key element in the project is to bring the concept of sustainable management of natural resources to them, increasing their sense of ownership and shared responsibility for the lake for generations to come.

That means education and engagement. It is not good for everyone if people fish during the spawning season or shoot and disturb endangered bird species. And it means synchronised trans-border management between authorities from both countries. Unfortunately the management system of protected areas on the Albanian side is currently undergoing significant structural changes, but grantees are busy preparing a set of modifications to cope with them.

The cooperation of two local NGOs with one international is proving to be an effective model of project implementation, which brings globally-effective examples of good practice to the locally-specific environment. Project coordinator International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) brings international expertise on protected area management, whilst Green Home of Montenegro and the Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania (INCA) provide local engagement.

Project 2: Conservation of Pelicans, a Key Biodiversity Species of Skadar Lake, 7 organisations

Lake Skadar harbours a small breeding population of Vulnerable Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, which has been struggling here since the 1970s due to many problems, mainly flooding and disturbance. In 2013, led by French NGO Noé Conservation, this large-grant CEPF project shows the power of even more collaborative partnerships.

The project aims to protect the colony and improve breeding success, with patrols by National Park guards, and floating nest platforms to reduce the impact of water level changes. Being an icon for the Lake Skadar, pelican-friendly tourism (Pelican Villages) will also promote the natural heritage of the entire lake, supported also by environmental education campaigns. The project also brings new practices in monitoring and research, and supports local institutions towards the main goal of a rich and stable pelican population.

A critical ecosystem worth conserving!A critical ecosystem worth conserving!

As well as coordinators Noé Conservation, international partners Tour du Valat and EuroNatur provide expert support on scientific practices, which have ensured the recovery of pelican populations and wetland sites in other parts of the Balkan region. This knowledge is combined with lengthy experience gathered by local partners from both sides of the lake – CZIP (BirdLife in Montenegro) and APAWA (the Association for Protection of Aquatic Wildlife in Albania). Natural History Museum of Montenegro (traditionally most intensively involved in pelican study at the lake) and National Park of Skadar Lake (the main managing authority of the lake) combine with the Society for the Protection of Prespa and Pelicans Species Specialist Group (on a consultative basis). Altogether, these complementary actors share knowledge and experience, bringing strong cooperation to ensure the best protection of this critical ecosystem from both sides of the border.

And it is working! This year four nesting rafts were immediately accepted by the pelicans, and used for nesting. Now, from the population estimated at 70 individuals, 48 young pelicans have been counted! This is the biggest number of surviving chicks in over 37 years of counting on Lake Skadar. Both adult and young pelicans are squeezing onto the rafts or freely swimming around – a true nature spectacle and a promise of better days for the Dalmatian Pelican on Lake Skadar.

*BirdLife International – including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) – is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med). Find out more at http://www.birdlife.org/cepf-med.

*The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at www.cepf.net.

For conservationists working to protect the remaining breeding colonies of Dalmatian Pelican on Lake Skadar in the Balkans, the fear of breeding failure is an intensely nerve-racking experience: here.

Children’s wildlife poetry competition

This video from Albania is called The Sound of Birds – 60 Minutes – Natural Sounds.

There is a wildlife short story writing competition for children in Britain.

And there is something for children who are better at poetry than at prose as well.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

Gruffalo author inspires new generation of natural poets

Last modified: 31 October 2012

Julia Donaldson, Children’s Laureate and author of the award-winning book The Gruffalo, has launched the RSPB’s 2012 Wildverse poetry competition for children.

The competition, in partnership with Pure and Fun Kids Radio, is open for entries from young people aged under 19. Poems can be any length, about any aspect of wildlife or nature.

Julia Donaldson, head judge of the competition, says; ‘I want children to feel the wind, the rain, the sunshine, listen closely and write about what excites them. I want to hear a story in a poem about something wonderful that they have experienced.’

Julia’s ten favourite poems will be read out on air on Fun Kids Radio between 21 and 24 December. The overall winner will receive a Pure Sensia radio system with colour touchscreen, and the runners up will receive a Pure One Flow radio so they can all listen to their poems being read out on Fun Kids.

Suzanne Welch, RSPB Head of Youth and Education, says; ‘The Wildverse competition has become a really popular annual event and it’s always a treat to read through each entry and become completely absorbed in nature the way children see it.’

‘There are fewer opportunities today for children to experience nature, but it’s so vital that they do in order to feel the masses of benefits that being out in nature offers and to ensure they feel the need to look after the natural world in years to come. We hope that this will be the perfect excuse for young people to get outdoors and have an amazing time in nature that they can capture on the page.’

E-mail Wildverse entries to wildverse@rspb.org.uk or send in the post to Wildverse, RSPB Wildlife Explorers, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL by Friday 23 November, 2012.

Albanian ‘Ben Ali’ Berisha kills oppositionists

This video is called Albanian demonstrations in Tirana 2011.

21 January 2011.

From The Citizen, in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania:

Unfortunately the world seems to believe that the impact of popular revolt in Tunisia affects the Arab world only. That’s incorrect.

The Citizen column continues saying that the Tunisian revolution may influence non-Arab African countries.

However, today proves influence on an European country.

From the BBC:

21 January 2011 Last updated at 18:29 GMT

Three killed as Albanian police clash with protesters

Three people have been killed in the Albanian capital Tirana during clashes between police and thousands of opposition supporters.

An estimated 20,000 people rallied outside government buildings calling on the conservative government to resign.

The protests follow the resignation of deputy prime minister Ilir Meta who is at the centre of a fraud scandal.

The socialist opposition accuses the government of corruption, abuse of power and rigging the last election.

Albania has been in political deadlock since the opposition rejected the result of the 2009 elections.

“Three people are dead, 17 policemen and soldiers were injured, including three seriously, along with 22 civilians,” hospital surgeon Sami Koceku told AFP news agency.

He said the victims were already dead when they arrived at the hospital. …

Before the protests, the US embassy in Tirana also called for the protest to be peaceful and appealed to politicians to tone down their rhetoric.

So, the United States government supports the bloody Albanian ruler Berisha. Like they supported Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, until he fled to Saudi Arabia. Barack Obama promised “change” in his US presidential election campaign. US policies on Tunisia and Albania are not really examples of change.

The opposition wants fresh parliamentary elections after rejecting the result of the June 2009 vote which Mr Berisha’s Democratic Party won by a small margin.

Political tensions rose after Ilir Meta – Mr Berisha’s key ally – resigned last week after being accused of corruption over a power plant tender.

Albania – one of Europe’s poorest countries – will hold local elections on 8 May but the next general election is not due until 2013.

Since the fall of communism in 1991, Albania has never held an election that has met all international standards.

Its hopes of joining the EU have been thwarted as it struggles to prove it has made the transition to a fully-functioning democracy.

Brussels rejected Albania’s application for candidate status late last year, urging it to meet an agenda of 12 points, in particular fighting corruption.

Amnesty Online: News – Investigation urged into Albania protest: here.

Albanians sue on CIA torture flights

This video from the USA is called ACLU client Khaled El-Masri – Victim of C.I.A. Rendition.

From Associated Press:

Thursday, Jan. 08, 2009

Albanian NGO sues government on CIA kidnap claim

The Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania An Albanian civil rights group said Thursday it had sued the government to force it to divulge information on an alleged CIA abduction five years ago.

Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border, then flown by the CIA to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and abused.

El-Masri says he was released in Albania in May, 2004, and that his captors told him he had been seized in a case of mistaken identity.

The Center for Development and Democratization of Institutions said it had filed two suits at a court in Tirana, Albania’s capital, demanding the Interior and Defense Ministries provide details on how el-Masri was brought to Albania.

The lawsuits have never before been publicly revealed.

The group filed the suits after the ministries refused to respond to freedom of information requests for documents related to the case.

“We can’t accept that people, whoever they may be, can be treated in Albania like this man was,” the center’s head, Ilir Aliaj, told The Associated Press.

After landing at an Albanian military airport, El-Masri was driven for several hours through the mountains of Albania, according to a report by the Council of Europe, an international organization that promotes human rights. He was later put on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

Human rights campaigners have used el-Masri’s story to press the United States to stop flying terrorism suspects to countries where they could face abuse – a practice known as “extraordinary rendition.”