Slano Kopovo

Where Cranes meet in Serbia

© Bruno Dittrich
© Bruno Dittrich

The Slano Kopovo salt marsh in the province of Vojvodina in Serbia is truly a paradise for birds. More than 200 species have been recorded in this area and 73 of them breed here. In the North East of Serbia cranes, threatened falcon species, such as the Saker Falcon and Red-Footed Falcon, and also several thousand ducks and geese find a habitat in this mosaic of dry grasslands and wetlands - some boggy, some saltwater - where they can forage and rest. For cranes Slano Kopovo is the southernmost important resting place in Central Europe. During the migration period as many as 20 thousand of these majestic birds appear and settle in the shallows.



Hunters protect birds

Slano Kopovo is a shining example for how successful a collaboration between hunters and conservationists can be and how smoothly it can run. For years the Novi Becej Hunters Association has been looking after and monitoring the internationally important wetland area in partnership with EuroNatur. Their work has been a model of cooperation and proves how hunting associations by designating certain areas off limits for hunting can show active commitment to nature and bird conservation. The hunters declared this area a “no hunting area” years ago and in this way made the development of an internationally crucial resting place possible.

 

 

Buying up land in the protection area ensures a quiet haven for birds

With the support of EuroNatur and the Eeconet Action Fund in the last three years the Hunters Association was able to buy a number of plots of land at the heart of the protection area. The goal is to create as large as possible an area at the centre which will be free of disturbance. At the same time arable land bearing crops are to be converted into meadows and pasture land. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the Vojvodina Nature Conservation Authority which has appointed the Hunters Association as a private agency responsible for the care of the protection area. In this way state and voluntary nature conservationists work hand in hand.



Saved from drying out

Although since 2001 around 1000 hectare protection area has been created which is a true oasis for a multitude of bird species, nevertheless Slano Kopovo is not yet out of danger. The cause is the canal-construction works carried out in the 1950s in connection with the building of the Danube- Theiss canal. As a result the ground water level has gradually sunk and one-time flooded areas have dried out. By buying up land it is now possible to raise the ground water level. The Serbian Government is funding the project.



What actions are EuroNatur and partners undertaking?

  • Working to bring back the water: raising the ground water level and restoring the salt lake. Bringing back the wetland character will mean Pied Avocet and Western Snowy Plover, Great Bittern and other species will gain further habitats.
  • Buying strategically important land: the goal is to enable a smooth process of restoration, by getting rid private crop farming in the nature reserve and by using the area for extensive farming instead.
  • Working with the hunters: To show how positive refraining from bird hunting in Slano Kopovo can be, EuroNatur will continue to work with the local Novi Becej Hunting Association.
  • Getting the locals on board: On a piece of land which was bought with a EuroNatur grant a Biology Station has been set up in an already existing building. From here the Nature Reserve is overseen by a ranger from the Hunters Association and guided tours are organized.



What we have so far been able to achieve - a selection of successes

  • The restoration of the ground water level has begun with state funding. The precondition for starting was the acquisition of the land.
  • A large part of the previously mentioned private arable farmland in the centre of the nature reserve has already been acquired.
  • EuroNatur resources from the Eeconet Action Fund (EAF) made it possible to acquire a building. The state provided the means to have it thoroughly restored and it has been opened as a Biology Station with an Information Centre to help raise public awareness of the natural heritage of Slano Kopovo.
  • Slano Kopovo is a convincing model project showing how successful the collaboration between nature conservationists and hunters can be for the benefit of wildfowl. Particularly for the work of convincing others in the countries along the Adriatic coast this model is of great value.



Partners: The Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia and Vojvodnida, Novi Becej Hunters Association

Sponsor: EAF- Eeconet Action Fund, EuroNatur donors and sponsors




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