We, the aforementioned Polish non-governmental organizations, working for nature conservation, are very concerned about the incident of the killing of a Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga), which occurred in Montenegro at the end of November last year (2012). The migrating individual belonged to a species which is in danger of extinction, assessed as vulnerable and placed on the IUCN Red List.
In Poland, we work very hard for the conservation of this species. The bird killed in your country, known as “Bruzda”, was one of the spotted eagles from Poland's small population, monitored with the use of satellite tracking, within a special conservation project funded by European LIFE financial mechanism for environmental conservation. The loss of even one bird is significant for the European Union population, which consists of not more than 40 adult individuals. Even a single incident may undermine all our efforts aimed at saving this species in Poland, where the population amounts to not more than 15 pairs of these birds.
We were informed that “Bruzda” was shot with the use of hunting weapon in the Lake Skadar National Park. The injured bird was taken by the Director of the National Park and then it was left without any help.
This case makes us deeply concerned about the quality of nature conservation in Montenegro and the country’s capacity to guarantee adequate input to the conservation of our common European natural heritage.
Montenegro, and Lake Skadar in particular, constitutes the Eastern Mediterranean flyway, which is one of three routes for migratory birds going from Europe to Africa. It should be taken under special protection and treatment. Apart from that, Lake Skadar is protected and recognized internationally as one of the Important Bird Areas, international water birds census site, Ramsar site, Adriatic flyway priority site, AEWA critical site and last but not least, it’s also protected by Montenegrin law as a national park. The capacity of Lake Skadar is more than 350,000 wintering water birds, with 220,000 counted in the 90's in Montenegro alone (e.g. Vasic et al. 1992). These numbers confirmed the huge value of the site. Despite all of this, birds are still not safe there.
According to the EURONATUR report (2009) Montenegro doesn’t have any programme to establish secure areas for migrating birds, taking into consideration international standards. This is a huge deficit, especially as the region of Lake Skadar is one of great importance for many migrating species. Furthermore, included in the same report we can read: In Montenegro, National Park works hard to implement the hunting ban at Lake Skadar, but the number of hunters entering the park makes it difficult to control them without strong police forces. In addition, some of the hunters seem to be pretty sure that nobody will stop them.
Unfortunately, we don’t see any real actions leading to ban hunting and the case of our extremely rare Greater Spotted Eagle can serve as a tragic example.
Upon Evaluation of the State of Bird Hunting made by Euronatur, very poor assessment was found in the following categories: control of hunting, monitoring of birds shot, length of hunting season, hunting during stages of reproduction, hunting during the return, number of bird species open for hunting, impact on endangered bird species, illegal bird hunting and the trade in birds. As Montenegro has joined the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement in 2011, we expected fulfillment of all its requirements and better protection of key areas, like Lake Skadar.
Despite the aims of the programs running in this National Park, like “Green Management Program”, “Strengthening the sustainability of the protected area system of Montenegro", "Lake Skada-Shkoder Integrated Ecosystem Management Project", “Supporting the proposed Trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve of Lake Skadar/Shkodra area through a participatory approach” birds are not safe there and the resulting conservative effects of those actions are uncertain. However, numbers of poachers persist to kill the rarest species without any consequences.
As Montenegro has aspirations to join the European Union and is presenting itself as the image of an “ecological country”, such incidents should never happen. But when this has already occurred, you should take all necessary measures to prevent its repetition. As a group devoted to nature conservation and investing a serious amount of work and funds to secure the threatened species such as the Greater Spotted Eagle, we demand better protection and conservation of the migrating birds in Montenegro, recognizing the importance of the Adriatic Flyway for birds that migrate between Eurasia and Africa, establishing Lake Skadar as an area free from hunting of any kind and more action towards better control of poaching. You must be aware that Montenegro is responsible for the safety of our shared European migrating birds.