Vojvodina blind mole rats, threatened by Hungarian Berlin wall

This video says about itself:

This cute mole rat may go extinct beneath Hungary’s refugee fence

30 September 2016

Only 400 blind mole rats are left in the world, and a major population that burrows beneath the Hungarian-Serbian border may be endangered by border patrols. Now, conservationists are trying to find them and relocate them to a safer home.

Vojvodina Blind Mole Rat may go extinct due to construction of a fence along the border between Hungary and Serbia: here.

Glossy ibis back in Serbia

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Rare Glossy Ibis eating habits

5 August 2015

Close up and slow motion footage of the rare Glossy Ibis, shining in the morning sun.

Plegadis falcinellus.

From BirdLife:

Half a century on, Glossy Ibis returns to Serbian wetlands

By Marko Tucakov, 15 July 2016

After more than 50 years of absence, the Glossy Ibis has once again returned to breed in the Obedska Bara wetlands in Serbia. This was confirmed earlier this month by ornithologists Dr Slobodan Puzović and Loránd Vigh, whose survey of the breeding grounds found four pairs of Glossy Ibis and 6-8 pairs of Eurasian Spoonbill, which have also not been seen in the area since the 1990s.

Obedska Bara, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and Ramsar site located on the banks of the Sava River some 30 km west of the capital Belgrade, was once considered a European stronghold of these species. During the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century, up to 4.500 breeding pairs were spotted congregating there during breeding season, according to research.

“However, since then, habitat conditions began to rapidly worsen, bringing total exctintion of Glossy Ibis [in Obedska Bara] as a breeding bird in 1960s, and Eurasian Spoonbill in 1990s. We wanted to have them back, and it finally happened in 2016,” Puzović adds.

But the road has not been easy. The habitat restoration process began in the 1990s. An international habitat restoration camp called Return of the Ibis was initiated in 1992 and has been organised annually since then. This was followed in 1997 by series of measures to restore habitats, including restoration of wet meadows and former pastures within the alluvial area of Obedska Bara.

Meadows and pastures have occupied almost 3000 ha of land here in the first half of 20th century. Since then, most of meadows have been turned into dense herbaceous bushes and woody vegetation due to the decrease of intensity of grazing of domestic cattle, changes in flooding regime and silting of the Sava River sediments.

Actions were carried out at six former pastures and wet meadows, from where dense bushes and trees, many of them invasive, were removed. These areas are being maintained by regular mowing, mulching and cattle grazing. More than 220 volunteers from 25 countries and 100 locals, officials and companies from from neighboring villages took part. They were led by the Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province, Young Researchers of Serbia and Provincial Secretariat for Urban Planning and Environmental Protection of Vojvodina Province, who are also conducting further research into the area.

The plan was to increase the extent of wet meadows and pastures from 50 ha in 1995 to 250 ha (2.5% of protected area). As of 2016, 200 ha of land has been restored, making therefore (and finally) favorable feeding sites for Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and many other waterbirds.

Similar restoration activities have been conducted at ponds and marshes within this wetland complex. These habitats, which once occupied 3500 ha, had now shrunk to 1200 ha due to euthrophication, accumulation of mud, peat and other sediments as well as overgrowth of trees and bushes.

These actions have benefited local inhabitants as well. The discarded wood is being used by them for fuel, and the amount of grazing areas has also increased.

However, there is still a long way to go to consider the project a success. The area of the habitat needs to be increased and the habitats need to be better connected and maintained. This, combined with the improvement of the water regime is key to the long-term sustaining of habitats for these two and other breeding species along the Sava River.

Mute swan saved by Serbian fishermen

This video says about itself:

31 January 2016

So Touching! Swan Thanks Fisherman for Rescue

Two fishermen on a boat in Serbia saw a swan in an icy river tangled in a net preventing it from swimming freely.

The men managed to cut the swan free.

Typically, the swan would swim away quickly but the most remarkable thing occurred.

The swan stuck around lingering around the boat and thanking the men for the rescue.

United States air force kills terrorists … oops, Serbian diplomats in Libya

This 10 November 2015 video is called Serbia intends to close its embassy [in Libya] after abduction of diplomatic mission employees.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In a US airstrike in Libya two Serbian diplomats were killed, said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. The two were kidnapped in November by ISIS fighters.

The bodies have not been identified yet, but the minister said that it is certain that they are these two.

… More than forty people were killed in that air raid.

How many more of these over forty dead people killed in that air raid will turn out to be not ISIS terrorists, but what military speech cynically calls ‘collateral damage‘, civilians? Or will we never get to know that?

European Union governments let refugees down

A refugee and his child on their way to Serbia, photo by AFP

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Serbia has been waiting for seven weeks for 170 tents

Today, 14:37

For weeks Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia have been waiting for blankets, bunk beds and toilet blocks for receiving refugees, but only a fraction of the required stuff has been actually offered and delivered. Only eleven EU countries have so far made any concrete contribution. This says a survey by the European Commission.

The list shows for example that Serbia on September 21 has shown they have a shortage of 170 tents, three thousand bunk beds, 50,000 disposable raincoats and 27 mobile showers. None of these articles has been offered. Not any EU member state has offered to supply these goods.

Serbia against Hungarian government’s anti-refugee wall

This video says about itself:

Europe Or Die (Full Documentary)

13 May 2015

Since 2000, more than 27,000 migrants and refugees have died attempting the perilous journey to Europe. With an unprecedented number of people breaking through its heavily barricaded borders in 2014, the EU continues to fortify its frontiers.

VICE News presents Europe or Die, a new four-part series that documents the efforts of those risking their lives to reach Europe, and the forces tasked to keep them out.

Episode 1 – Storming Spain‘s Razor-Wire Fence: VICE News correspondent Milène Larsson travels to the border between Morocco and Spain, where West Africans in their thousands storm the razor-wire-clad fences. Many are beaten back by border police or illegally returned.

Episode 2 – Death Boats to Greece: VICE News correspondent Milène Larsson travels to the border between Greece and Turkey, where Syrian and Afghan refugees are paying large sums of money to take “death boats” to Greece, and visits the border between Greece and Turkey to find out what happens to the many migrants who perish while attempting to cross Greece’s dangerous Evros river.

Episode 3 – Trapped In Bulgaria: VICE News correspondent Milène Larsson visits Bulgaria to see Europe’s newest border fence and speaks to Syrians who, because of the EU’s Dublin Regulation, are trapped in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Episode 4 – Italy’s Mediterranean Mass Grave: VICE News correspondent Milène Larsson arrives in Italy as the only extensive search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean is replaced with a border surveillance mission, effectively leaving thousands of desperate migrants adrift in the sea.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Serbia‘s Vucic hits out at Hungarian migrant fence

Friday 19th June 2015

SERBIAN President Aleksandar Vucic said he was “shocked and surprised” yesterday by Hungary’s plan to build a border fence against immigrants.

Walls and fences” were not the solution, Mr Vucic said, to the crisis that has seen tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa cross the western Balkans, trying to reach the European Union as they flee wars and poverty in their home countries.

“We don’t know what this is all about,” Mr Vukic said. “We are not guilty and all of a sudden a wall is to be built.”

He added: “We don’t want to live in an Auschwitz.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed on Wednesday that the 13-foot-high fence along the 109-mile southern border with Serbia would not contravene any of Hungary’s international legal obligations.

But the European Union said it did not promote the use of fences and encouraged its member states to use alternative measures.

“We have only recently taken down walls in Europe. We should not be putting them up,” said EU spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud.

Ms Bertaud is right in this. However, she (or her predecessors in the European Union bureaucracy) should say that as well to the right wing government in Spain, with their razor wire fences wounding immigrants trying to climb them. And this should have been said to the previous government in Greece with their anti-refugee wall along the Turkish border too.

Hungary’s right-wing government has been on an anti-immigrant campaign, claiming that Muslims threaten Europe’s Christians.

Human rights abuses are the key driving factor behind migrant crisis in the Mediterranean: Human Rights Watch: here.

How wars in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe have created an unprecedented refugee crisis: here.

Bird conservation in Serbia

This 2014 video is called Wild Balkan HD (National Geographic) Documentary.

From BirdLife:

Of birds, mud and spas: the special chemistry of Lake Rusanda

By BirdLife Europe, Wed, 04/02/2015 – 15:11

For passionate bakers it’s just an ingredient for cakes and biscuits. But in Lake Rusanda, baking soda means a lot more than that. This natron lake, one of only four in Serbia, has provided alkaline, highly therapeutic, mineral-rich muds for over a century. The lake and it’s unique alchemy has also made it an unusual hotspot for avian fauna as well.

Lake Rusanda, a shallow water body about 400 ha in size, is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) for about 230 different bird species. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of BPSSS, BirdLife Partner in Serbia, and other dedicated players, the lake and surrounding lands (altogether 1,160 ha) was finally designated Rusanda Nature Park in July 2014 and the consequences of this decision are already being felt.

Natron is a naturally occuring substance containing sodium carbonate, so the lake offers a very unique habitat to many birds which are resident or simply passing through. You will find a variety of duck, grebe, geese, cranes, and waders that rely on Lake Rusanda as a refuge during migration. Also, look up to the sky to see raptors because in the park you will find one of the largest and densest breeding populations of the Common Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon and Long-eared Owl in the entire country. Other busy breeders include the Black-necked Grebe, Squacco Heron, Black-winged Stilt and Common Redshank.

The therapeutic mud taken from the bottom of the lake is rich in minerals and has been used to treat medical ailments since 1867. The Rusanda Spa, on the north shore of the lake, uses this mud for some of its best spa treatments and is now considered one of the countries hottest spots for some good R&R. The park is actually partly the result of a win-win effort between BPSSS, the spa and other partners. The spa has been so keen with this conservation effort it has taken up the role of park site man[a]ger. This success story shows how eco-type tourism can benefit business, people, and nature.

Besides all this, local communities can become excited and involved in efforts to preserve the area. For instance, since nesting space is at a premium for small falcons and owls, 40 nesting boxes have been set up. The smaller avian inhabitants, like Tree Sparrows and Starlings, have not been forgotten as more than 60 breeding boxes have also been installed for their use. These boxes make it easier for bird enthusiasts to observe breeding activities and band chicks before they fledge which is an important contribution to monitoring populations. Other activities have involved bird banding camps, local clean ups, adding informative signs for educational purposes, and the addition of an observation shelter where it is possible to remain hidden while viewing birds in their natural habitat.

An important next step in protecting this special place will be to have Rusanda Nature Park listed under the Ramsar Convention. This would give it the international recognition it deserves and would also put this park in a better position to fight against illegal poaching and other crimes which are a constant challenge.

This article is based on information received from BPSSS (BirdLife Partner in Serbia).

European roller recovery in Serbia

This is a European roller video from Azerbaijan.

From BirdLife:

Better days for European Rollers in Serbia

By Alessia Calderalo, Wed, 17/12/2014 – 10:10

European Roller is a modern symbol of nature conservation in Serbia. In the first half of the 20th century, the species was very common in the lowlands, as well as in hilly areas and river valleys of central and eastern part of the country. Sadly, this beautiful multi-coloured bird has been in the spotlight in recent years due to its rapid decline since the 1950s. The decline, particularly obvious in the Vojvodina Region, reached its most alarming point when the last census showed that only 17 pairs were left in Vojvodina. Ornithologists decided to take action.

Experts from Riparia Association of Naturalists and the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS), (BirdLife Partner), realised that the immense potential of the vast Pannonian alkaline grasslands was being wasted. This was due to a lack of breeding sites for the birds, almost all of the old trees rich in breeding holes had been cut down. According to Otto Szekeres, Roller Project leader with the Riparia Association, breeding boxes had to be installed urgently in all possible places – younger trees and electricity pylons, to give the birds a chance.

This strategy, which was only implemented in the northern part of the country, soon began to cover southern areas too: “In 2003, we had the first ever breeding pair in a box in Serbia and this number has increased gradually, reaching a figure of 147 pairs in boxes in 2014”, said Otto Szekeres.

All these actions have proved to be widely effective, and lots of people, farmers and other stakeholders have recognised the European Roller’s recovery as a really positive move. Its presence on Pannonian grasslands is clear and visible: birds are displaying at the end of a breeding season and during migration on electricity wires quite frequently. Likewise, over 10 years, more than 1,200 chicks have fledged from the nest boxes and birds have started slowly to occupy natural holes in the remaining trees around the feeding sites. In addition, the European Roller project has attracted a group of active Roller caretakers who are doing local box installations and repairs, watching them and ringing the chicks. Most of these conservation lessons and experiences applied by BPSSS and Riparia Association were learnt from MME (BirdLife in Hungary), which has successfully implemented a similar set of Roller conservation projects.

“However”, –says Szekeres “in order to make the European Roller population sustainable, more efforts need to be invested in its management. If we cease the nest installation and repairs, the population will end up with no other suitable nesting opportunities”.

For this project to be successful and long lasting, it will require a strengthening and expansion of the surveillance network and full support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection in Serbia.

In the future, bird lovers and environmentalists hope that European Rollers will not need such strong engagement of people for its survival.

Protect quails and turtle doves in Serbia

This video from Belarus is called Перепел / Common Quail / Coturnix coturnix.

From BirdLife:

An urgent change in the law is needed to protect Common Quails and Turtle Doves in Serbia

By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 12/09/2014 – 10:32

As many other bird species in Europe, the Common Quail and the Turtle Dove are being victims of a common practice that brings only concerns to the bird lovers: an uncontrolled hunting for which the laws seem not to be sensitive enough.

In Serbia, where Common Quails and Turtle Doves are considered game birds, these species are being direct victims of this excessively lax law and the threatening practices have led both species into a worrying trend of decrease. In their efforts to overcome these terrible effects, the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS – BirdLife Affiliate in Serbia) has given voice to these common concerns advocating for a legislative change. Our partner, with a strong support of other conservation organisations, has officially requested the Serbian Ministries of Agriculture and Environmental Protection for these two species to enlarge the list of protected birds in the country and abandon their status of game birds. Sadly, the efforts have fallen on deaf ears in both 2003 and 2012.

The problem, however, does not only affect the Common Quail and the Turtle Dove, but is also bringing a wide range of conservation issues, going from the massive usage of electronic devices to attract birds to an overall lack of proper management that leads into an overexploitation of many species.

In their unflagging efforts to address this issue, BPSSS supporters have recently engaged in a series of actions to help the police and the inspectors in several cases of illegal hunting. Milan Ružić, BPSSS Vice-president, said that thanks to a strong public campaign, the cases of illegal hunting are becoming increasingly reported in the Serbian media outlets, and the general awareness of the society is rising up.

Are these steps a sign that something is progresively changing for a better protection of the Common Quail and Turtle Dove populations? Certainly yes. Despite the fact that there is still a long way to go, we are in the right direction, and we hope that the efforts being made by BirdLife partners for the birds and their habitats will soon see their full blossom.

Saker falcons in Serbia threatened

This video is called Hungarian Saker Falcon and Hobby Nests – Fledgings 2013. 26.08.2013.

From BirdLife:

Serbian Saker decreasing despite intense efforts

By Elodie Cantaloube, Thu, 10/07/2014 – 09:04

Pigeon breeders, farmers, poachers and strong winds: the many threats to the rare Falcon.

Fourteen, maybe seventeen pairs: that’s all that remains of the rare and beautiful Saker Falcon in Serbia. Estimated at some 55 pairs in 2007, the population has dramatically decreased according to the data gathered by the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS; BirdLife Affiliate).

Just like in other Central and Eastern European countries, Saker Falcons tend to breed on high-voltage electro pylons, mostly in the Pannonian area of Serbia, an intensively cultivated open land, densely inhabited. Saker falcons tend to occupy the nests of common ravens and carrion crows on the pylons, which make them vulnerable to a large number of threats.

According to Draženko Rajković, head of the Saker Conservation Programme at BPSSS, the biggest threats these birds are facing are nest destruction, killing of adult Sakers and stealing of chicks from the nests. These human pressures add to natural causes, such as the disintegration of nests by strong winds and rainstorms.

The Saker Conservation Programme started 7 years ago and began a number of actions aimed at solving the problems, “Following the succesful installations of artificial nests in neighbouring Hungary, which led to a stabilisation of the Saker population in the country, we decided to consult with MME-BirdLife Hungary on how to proceed. The first wooden trays were installed in 2006, and by 2008 we had installed 100 of them with the financial support of the Government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. The first pair of Saker started breeding in the wooden trays in 2013, and until now an additional two have accepted such nests”, says Rajković.

The efforts to provide safe nesting to Sakers is still ongoing. Recently 30 metal boxes with a roof were installed on pylons with the key logistical support of Elektromreža Srbije Public Enterprise (EMS), a state-owned company that maintains a high-voltage distribution system.

BPSSS Secretary Marko Tucakov stressed the importance of the role played by EMS in this conservation effort:  “There is no state company nor governmental institution with whom we have achieved such a high level of understanding and collaboration, to the extent that they have asked us to organise educational workhops with EMS workers, who have effectively become responsible for the future of the Saker population».

Sadly, despite all efforts being made to preserve the life of this species, BPSSS still asseses their conservation status in Serbia  as “very unfavorable”. The main reason for this, according to conservationists, is the pigeon breeding activity, especially of the races meant for fast flying and orientation contests.  Conservationists blame criminals among the pigeon breeding community for being responsible of the intentional killing of adults and the destruction of their nests, since the majority of the Serbian Sakers are extensively preying domestic raised pigeons during the breeding period. Serbian ornithologists therefore call on the inspectors, the police and the prosecutors to take urgent actions to stop this acute threat to the already critically small Serbian Saker population.