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Saving the Dalmatian pelican in the Danube Delta

The Dalmatian pelican is arguably one of the most beautiful and charismatic breeding birds in Europe. Nevertheless, it is extremely vulnerable within its entire geographic distribution. This major five year project is actively conserving the major breeding population of Dalmatian pelicans in the Romanian Danube Delta, as well increasing overall protection of the species by aiming to improve its condition at breeding, staging and wintering sites.

The Dalmatian Pelican is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ across its whole geographical distribution and is particularly vulnerable because its small European population is concentrated at only a few sites. The European population of Dalmatian Pelican is crucial for the survival of the species, as the two major subpopulations (with about 700 pairs in Greece and around 400 pairs in Romania) are the last remaining strongholds of the species outside the former Soviet Union, where large declines have been noted in recent decades. In Romania, all the colonies are located within the internationally renowned Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.

The main factors causing large declines in the 20th century were drainage of wetlands, destruction of colonies by fisherman, illegal hunting, and collision with electric power lines. New threats have arisen recently, including disturbance at breeding and roosting sites caused by tourists, birdwatchers and photographers, and persecution due to competition with commercial fisheries during post-breeding dispersion and migration and on wintering grounds. Collision with power lines is especially critical at colonies close to these obstacles. Locally, water erosion, storms and flooding, reed overgrowth and the sinking of floating islands may threaten colonies.

Project objectives

  • Overall, first the Romanian breeding population needs to be stabilized, then that population increased across all sites in the Danube Delta
  • Increased number of breeding birds in Romania, to 450 breeding pairs by 2008 and to 500 by 2009
  • Increased breeding success by protecting the existing sites and increasing nesting surface by installing artificial structures
  • Restrict hunting and fishing at the breeding sites and encourage sensitive conservation management of fish farms to reduce disturbance and conflict
  • Derive 'Best practice' examples from implementing this project, and then widely disseminate them, emphasizing the establishment of new Natura2000 sites over time

Key dates so far

  • Project start date: January 2005
  • Project completion date: November 2009

Work planned or underway

This project has now completed the majority of its activities, although a series of ongoing management, monitoring and communications activities remain underway.  The team are concentrating on the implementation of the satellite telemetry component of the project that will help to determine the dispersal of juvenile and adult Dalmatian pelicans after nesting, and hope to identify factors that cause low survivorship of juvenile pelicans.

Results

  • Elaborating the site management plan for the protection of breeding sites has provided increased protection and more effective management
  • Training courses for DDBRA wardens have been held every year (2006-2008) at the beginning of the breeding season
  • Courses have been held for fish farmers and managers on best management practices favourable for Dalmatian pelicans
  • Satellite tagging of 3 juvenile Dalmatian pelicans has revealed new information on habitat use during the winter by young pelicans
  • Consolidating one island that hosts a breeding colony and installing artificial platforms close to 2 breeding sites has proven attractive
  • Installing warning signs and buoys close to colonies and information boards in tourist areas has reduced disturbance
  • Aerial and ground monitoring of colonies and feeding areas has provided significant new information on all key colonies
  • Disseminating results through media articles, a television documentary, exhibitions, and public seminars have engaged the interest of key groups
  • Performing education activities at schools in the project area and at summer camps have engaged with local schoolchildren

Gallery

Who to contact

Mark Day
Head of Partner Development Unit - Europe, Middle East and Central Asia
E-mail: mark.day@rspb.org.uk

Partners

Romanian Ornithological Society Life project     www.dalmatianpelican.ro

Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration      www.ddbra.ro

Romanian Ornithological Society      www.sor.ro

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds      www.rspb.org.uk

Funding

The total budget is 656,928 euro, 75% of which is funded by the EU; with the remaining 25% provided by the three partners.