Neretva-Delta

Fragile bird paradise on the Adriatic

© Massimo Bottoni
© Massimo Bottoni

The eight arms of the delta of the river Neretva form a pattern like a huge bird's foot. And delta lakes, fed by underground springs, narrow river valleys, forests of reeds, lagoons, lush common land pastures, sand banks, riparian forests and river branches covered in aquatic plants together create a veritable bird paradise here. In the 20 thousand hectares of the delta spreading from Bosnia Herzegovina over the Croatian border to the Adriatic, 300 bird species live and rest. Among them are Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Crane, the rare Ferruginous Duck and Pygmy Cormorant.

A key area for wildfowl protection in Europe

Flocks of elegant, large birds such as Great Egret, Grey Heron, Crane and Spoonbill are dependent on the open spaces in the delta as a landing place to reach before their flight over the Dinaric Alps. As the only major reed area on the Adriatic coast the Neretva Delta is an absolutely vital resting place for birds traveling back and forth on the Adriatic flyway between their summer and winter quarters, which makes the conservation of this natural landscape a key task for the successful protection of migratory birds in Europe.

Bird hunting and destruction of habitats are increasing alarmingly

Considerable parts of the delta are admittedly already protected areas (to open a map please click on the photo gallery above). For instance the whole of the Neretva Delta in Croatia and in the Hutovo Blato Nature Park in Bosnia-Herzegovina are designated wetlands of international importance and protected under the Ramsar Convention. In addition in the Croatian area of the delta there are five designated, strictly protected nature reserves. But apart from the fact that the protected areas do not form a continuous network, the establishment of protected zones on paper is not enough, because in practice little notice is taken of this status.

The nature reserves in Croatia are not even marked or signposted as such. Every year motorways, mandarine plantations and commercial sites are eating further into the rich natural landscape of the Delta. And the smaller their habitat becomes the more the birds are exposed to hunters on the few remaining areas. Bird-hunting is a great problem in the Neretva Delta: in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of birds that used to rest here 100 years ago, there are merely a few hundred left today.

What actions is EuroNatur undertaking ?

  • Accelerating the designation of the Neretva Delta as a Nature Park and establishing further areas in which hunting is banned.
  • Campaigning for the implementation of a trans-boundary concept for the protection of the whole Neretva Delta.
  • Offering and demonstrating alternatives to bird hunting and the destruction of nature. EuroNatur counsels the Hutovo Blato Nature Park over the development of a programme of eco-tourism and bird-watching and organises funding to build the tourism and hospitality infrastructure required.
  • Drawing attention to the protection which is lacking on the Croatian side of the Neretva Delta through political lobbying and in this context promoting the idea of nature tourism as a lucrative economic alternative to the destruction of nature.
  • Supporting local institutions (e.g. the Nature Park management of Hutovo Blato) and raising public awareness of conservation issues.
  • Supporting local bird experts in their voluntary bird counts and spot checks on hunting.
  • Setting up workshops and seminars on bird counts for young nature conservationists and also organising guided nature walks.

  What we have already achieved – a selection of successes:

  • The network of birdwatchers and bird experts is growing closer-knit. In the meantime in Bosnia, members of the Nase Ptice association are regularly monitoring the bird population in Hutovo Blato Nature Park and also keeping up a visible presence to deter bird-hunting.
  • EuroNatur has already worked out a zonation concept for the effective protection of the Neretva Delta as a trans-boundary biosphere reserve.
  • Working consistently on raising public awareness using multiple channels of communication:
  1. Since the spring of 2010 a permanent exhibition in the ornithological collection in Metkovi? has been displaying the natural and cultural treasures of the Neretva Delta and campaigning for its designation as a Nature park on the Croatian side of the delta.
  2. A multi-lingual leaflet informs foreign hunting visitors, local hunters and other visitors about what regulations are in force in the Neretva Delta and where hunting is forbidden.
  3. “Birds of the Neretva Delta”, the four-volume book series completed in 2010, for the first time documents the outstanding value of the area as a resting place for migrating birds with impressive photos and texts. The series was published with the support of EuroNatur.


Partners:“Nase Ptice“ Bird Protection Society in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatian Society for Bird and Nature Protection, the local Vodomar (Kingfisher) bird protection group in Croatia, the Ornithological Collection in Metkovi? and Hutovo Blato Nature Park

Sponsors: EuroNatur donors and sponsors

Interview "Scary Spectacle in the Neretva delta" with Ivana Šarić from NGO Biom

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