Crane protection across national borders

Crane protection across national borders

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© Bruno Dittrich

The crane is a good example of how different the situation is for migratory birds in different parts of Europe: while the crane populations in Central, North and West Europe are now stable thanks to wide-ranging protection measures, bird counts in South East Europe show a steady downward trend. Alongside increasing habitat loss it is above all bird hunting that accounts for the dwindling numbers of cranes in the Balkans.

Winds of change
Long-term studies have established that the lack of safe resting places is gradually leading to a change in the birds' behaviour. More and more cranes from Eastern Europe are now flying south along the western route instead of taking the more dangerous Adriatic flyway (also known as the Baltic-Hungarian-Adria-migration route).


Weaving a safety net
So that the magnificent migration of the cranes along the Adriatic is not soon a thing of the past and cranes are not forced more and more to flock to the remaining Atlantic migration route, wide-ranging conservation measures for the protection of migrating birds are urgently needed in South East Europe. Together with its local partners EuroNatur is campaigning to create and maintain undisturbed and intact resting places along the Adriatic Flyway.

In what areas is EuroNatur campaigning for the protection of cranes?
The central focus of EuroNatur's project activities is along the Adriatic Flyway: Slano Kopovo in Serbia, the karst area Livanjsko Polje in Bosnia, the Neretva-Delta in the border area between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and also Lake Skadar and the Bojana-Buna-Delta on the border between Montenegro and Albania. Over and above this EuroNatur is working at the political level for the protection of cranes across national borders.


What actions are EuroNatur and its partners taking?


  • Keeping an eye on the cranes: In the important resting areas along the Adriatic Flyway observation data on the cranes passing through and those wintering are collected and analysed.
  • Creating a network of shared knowledge: We work with nature conservation organisations, ministries or universities from numerous European countries in order to exchange insights on the migration and populations of the European crane regularly. In the European Crane Working Group EuroNatur is the acting representative of the concerns of the Balkan states.
  • Creating undisturbed resting places: Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, but also Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina are all at various stages of application to join the EU. We support our partner organisations on site in making careful preparation for a Natura 2000 network in the Eastern Adriatic. We are also campaigning for the designation of areas as no-hunting zones.  
  • Developing conservation concepts: We are developing concepts for the preservation of the cranes' much-needed resting places for the long term and across national borders.
  • Highlighting alternatives to the destruction of Nature: The Eastern Adriatic coast offers attractive holiday destinations with the clear waters of its karst lakes and its extensive wetlands. Nature tourism – in particular bird watching – offers an alternative to the destruction of these habitats.

What we have achieved so far: a selection of important successes:


  • In cooperation with partner organisations EuroNatur has for years carried out research in the course of work on migratory bird protection. The research results have for the first time produced reliable data on the migration of cranes over the Balkan  peninsula.  With this data EuroNatur has been able to demonstrate impressively what dangers the cranes are exposed to in South East Europe.
  • This report by EuroNatur led to the participants in the European Crane Conference in October 2010 passing a Resolution for the protection of cranes in the Balkans. In it they call on the governments and hunting associations of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro to establish resting places on the migration route between the Hungarian plain and Africa.
  • Slano Kopovo, the Livansjko Polje, the Neretva-Delta, Lake Skadar and the Bojana-Buna-Delta  are important resting areas for the cranes but they are also severely impaired by bird-hunting. With our regular population counts we have provided evidence of the ecological value of these areas and of the effects of these disturbances. The proof is there in black and white.
  • The biotope maps and population data gained have enabled us to put forward detailed concepts for newly designated protection areas .

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