From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Love Is in the Air as Albania’s Flamingoes Flourish under Lockdown

The number of pink flamingos and curly pelicans is up by a third in Albania’s lagoons and marshlands.

Park authorities said that the number of flamingoes has increased to around 3000 since January, due in part to humans being stuck at home under lockdown.

Nexhip Hysolakoj, chief of the protected area said: “wildlife have regained all of their absolute rights and are enjoying all the freedoms of nature”.

Over recent years, increasing urbanisation, a growing tourism footprint and industrial activity have threatened ecosystems in these fragile, protected parts of the country. At the Lagoon of Narta, the birds have been able to flourish without being disturbed by fishing boats, ferries, tourists and other vessels that would once depart daily from nearby Vlora.

Noise pollution from the highway some 500m away has also been reduced, further adding to the peace and quiet that the wildlife needs to thrive. A nearby leather processing plant and olive oil producer are dormant, decreasing the amount of pollution being pumped into their environment.

Hysolokaj said he hopes the next step will be the birds will begin to mate. He said that over the last three weeks love has been in the air as couples have been moving deeper into the lagoon and are starting “courtship rituals”.

Mirjan Topi, author of Albania’s first bird guide said the current conditions are just right for flamingoes to flourish.

“These birds typically travel for a few years in different regions of the Mediterranean until they reach sexual maturity,” he said.

Those frolicking in the lagoon today have come from Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Africa.

Further north in Divjaka National Park, the fowl are also feeling increasingly frisky. The threatened Dalmatian pelicans, otherwise known as ‘curly pelicans’ are congregating. Park workers have observed some 85 loved-up couples nesting on a small island in the centre of the lagoon. Their population has been increasing recently and is now at the highest number in the last 30 years.

Before lockdown, their habitat was under threat from up to 50,000 visitors each month. But today, restaurants, hotels, bars, and many illegally constructed buildings are empty.

Pelicans, flamingoes, bald eagles and various other animals are enjoying the peace and calm, strutting around the pathways usually thronging with tourists.

Ardian Koci the director of the park said he hopes the pandemic will be an opportunity to rebalance tourism and the protection of the country’s biodiversity.

“I would be selfish to say that only nature counts but urgent measures are needed to put an end to the abuses that have so badly damaged ecosystems,” he said.