Lake Skadar

Enchanted Bird Paradise

© Martin Schneider-Jacoby
The island of Grmozur in Lake Skadar National Park. © Martin Schneider-Jacoby

Seen from the Bojana-Buna Delta, Lake Skadar lies slightly inland on the border between Albania and Montenegro. It is the largest lake on this Balkan peninsula. Alongside inflow from the Dinaric Alps the lake is fed from karst springs rising from roughly 60 metres underground, that is from well under sea-level. In the course of the seasons rainfall and meltwater swell the lake to nearly twice its real size. With its luxuriant vegetation, wide-spreading areas of flooding and shallows this lake which is also rich in fish is an important breeding, wintering and resting area for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds on the Adriatic Flyway. Altogether there are 270 species of birds here. Of the total number of Whiskered Terns in the whole of Europe a proud two percent come to Lake Skadar to breed. And then there are also such rare species as Dalmatian Pelican and Squacco Heron with its flash of white wings.

The Montenegrin part of Lake Skadar was designated a National Park in 1983 and in 1995 it was added to the international Ramsar list of wetlands deserving protection. Two years ago the Albanian part, too, was declared a Ramsar area. And now it is above all a question of implementing effective protective measures. For what looks so idyllic is not in truth an idyll: an increasing use of the lake by tourists and intensive bird-hunting are seriously endangering the bird paradise.

Greetings from Lake Skadar

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What are actions EuroNatur and its partners undertaking?

  • Fighting against bird-hunting on the East Adriatic coast
  • Collecting valuable data: we regularly carry out counts in all the breeding bird colonies, among which are gulls, terns, herons and cormorants. This data forms a valuable foundation of facts to help us argue our case for further protective measures.
  • Planning protective zones: on the basis of solid data we have developed a fully elaborated zoning concept with protective zones and a ban on entering the northern part of the lake to be imposed for specific limited periods of time and have presented this to the Macedonian, Montenegrin and Albanian policy makers in a series of workshops.
  • Protecting the Dalmatian pelican
  • Fighting the erection of hydroelectric power stations along the Moraca: nearly all rivers in the Balkans are threatened by the planning of new hydropower stations. The power stations on the Moraca, the largest river that flows into the Lake Skadar, would effectively drain 100 square kilometres of lake-side wet meadows.
  • Encouraging Nature tourism rather than the kind that destroys habitats: we are campaigning for sustainable ecotourism on Lake Skadar which would create year-round economic perspectives for the local people and at the same time preserve the precious heritage of the natural world. The EuroNatur guidebook “Eastern Adriatic Coast” is available at the EuroNatur Service GmbH bookshop.

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

  • The whole of Lake Skadar is meanwhile officially free of bird-hunting
  • The numbers of birds wintering here in the Skadar National Park in Montenegro since the beginning of the ban on hunting in 2002 has increased steadily.
  • In a joint effort with the management of the National Park and the Albanian partner organisation APAWA in 2009 EuroNatur was able for the first time to count and record all the breeding bird colonies on Lake Skadar. The data gained in this way provides important arguments for pressing for further protective measures.
  • With the agreement of the Montenegrin and Albanian Environmental Ministries Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has published the zoning concept suggested by EuroNatur in their concept for the transnational development of Lake Skadar. Admittedly the realization of the protective measures is still held up and we have to keep on lobbying for the implementation of this progressive plan.  

Partners: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Lake Skadar National Park, Society for the Protection of Marine Creatures in Albania (APAWA), University of Shkodra

Sponsors: Mava Foundation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), EuroNatur donors and sponsors

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Short film „Skadar“ on Vimeo

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