Srebarna restoration action 2005

Some weeks ago Le Balkan-Bulgaria Foundation and Branta-Tours ensured that essential conservation work was done to restore the Dalmatian Pelican breeding site at Srebarna Nature reserve (see photographs).

Srebarna

The Srebarna Biosphere Reserve (see picture) has the highest international nature protection status: it is included in the UNESCO List for Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1983); it is recognized also as a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention for Protection of Wetlands (1975); it is a part of the World-Wide Network for Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO (1977) and Important Bird Area (IBA).

The breeding colony of the Dalmatian Pelicans in the Srebarna Biosphere Reserve (see picture) is one of the few such colonies in Europe and unique for Bulgaria. It is the last one remained in the region of the Lower Danube, where several pelican colonies used to exist till the end of 19th century.

The project

In 1998 a partnership between Swarovski Optik (www.swarovskioptik.at) and "Le Balkan-Bulgaria" Foundation was established with the main goal of improving the breeding conditions in the colony at the Srebarna Biosphere reserve and to ensure the survival of the Pelicans.

As a result of this from 1998 to 2003 a team from Le Balkan implemented several very important measures and management techniques at the site. The result of these measures was that the pelican colony was protected from extensive flooding and predators. We obtained authorisation for implementation of this project from the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water through the established written agreement. (see picture)

In parallel, a joint monitoring programme between Le Balkan and the "Station biologique de la Tour du Valat" (www.tourduvalat.org) has been running in Srebarna Dalmatian Pelican colony. This work is included in an international research and conservation program on the species.

Comments:
Thanks to the joint efforts between Swarovski Optik, Tour du Valat and "Le Balkan" the pelican colony was rescued and continues to thrive, although further work is needed.
Despite the flooding in 1999, 2000 and 2004 the breeding seasons were successful thanks to the installation of thick "sandwiches" of reed sheaves.
This is indicative of how future management efforts should be oriented.
By the way, the breeding success of the colony was the highest since 1955.
We even achieved the first case of breeding White pelicans in 2000 on our artificial platforms built in the colony (Ref. Brit Birds 94 p390)

Conclusion:
Thanks to the successful partnership between Swarovski Optik and "Le Balkan" on one hand and between Le Balkan and Tour du Valat on the other hand, the number of breeding pairs, the number of successfully reared young Pelicans and the breeding success were the highest in comparison to the previous 50 years.
In 1999, the list of threatened birds set up by BirdLife was being revised. Thanks to conservation actions Dalmatian Pelican was moved from the "vulnerable" category to the less urgent category of "conservation needed", which is the best possible proof of the successes achieved by the conservation measures taken and the contribution of our team to the pelican program.

Actual case: Two months ago Le Balkan-Bulgaria Foundation ( www.lebalkan.org) together with BrantaTours (www.branta-tours.com) ensured that essential conservation work was done to restore the Dalmatian Pelican breeding site at Srebarna Nature reserve: In 2005 an unexpected phenomena happened at Srebarna Nature reserve: the floating reedmat (see picture), on which the hide, the tunnel and the breeding platforms for pelicans were built, moved by several hundreds of meters and left an open bay. Because the breeding season was quite advanced, there has been no damage to the pelicans, and they continued to feed their young as if nothing had happened.

This event created a situation, which would have been detrimental for the pelicans if we had not done anything. Le Balkan and Branta-Tours had to reinstate the floating reedmat to its former location, and to put bunches of reeds around the site as protection from the elements in readiness for the next breeding season (2006). We also built two new rafts, 25 and 20 m2 respectively; in order to approach a surface area available for breeding next year of at least 300 m2 as opposed to the 350 m2 of the former installed structures. We decided that the old structures should be left where they are so that we offer a choice of breeding sites to the pelicans.
In order to succeed to make a safe breeding area for pelicans next year we needed therefore significant financial help to undertake the building of the rafts and their installation to establish the new breeding site.

Le Balkan and Branta-Tours would like to thank, the Ministry of Environment and Water, the Swarovski Optik and the following independent donors for their financial help: "Pandion-D" company and "Srebarna Guesthouse".