A look at a 25-year-long activity of protecting natural sites in Romania.
Milvus Group, an environment protection NGO based in Cluj Napoca, has been working for 25 years in the field of conservation. During all these years, its members have conducted a variety of bird research and protection projects, from bird ringing to monitoring the migration routes for the birds of prey in Macin Mountains or Bosporus, which is placed on one of the most important European migration routes. According to the head of Milvus Group, the biologist Tamas Papp, during its 25 years of work the association has also contributed to some regions being granted the status of protected areas:
“The combined surface of the protected areas in Romania was very small, accounting for only 7% of the country’s total area, but with Romania’s EU accession this figure rose to 23%. And I think our association played an important role in this respect. This is our most significant accomplishment of the past 10 years. We drafted proposals concerning a large number of protected areas, based on our surveys focusing on birds, mammals and habitats. A total of over 200 areas, of diverse sizes, have been included on the list of protected areas thanks to our contribution. Furthermore, we are currently managing 12 such protected areas. We have also made a substantial contribution to the management plans of protected areas.”
The founder of the Cluj Napoca-based environment watchdog, Tamas Papp, believes that in Romania nature protection is not yet a priority, and moreover, that Romania is the only EU member state that fails to earmark public funds for its protected areas, except for the Danube Delta Nature Reserve. The country does not yet have a National Agency for Protected Areas in charge with managing the natural eco-systems and habitats. Here are the most important projects implemented by Milvus Group in the field of bird and nature protection:
“For instance, we have focused extensively on the birds of prey, and we have notable achievements in this respect. We’ve had several projects involving the saker falcon, the red-footed falcon, the lesser spotted eagle, some of them financed by the European Commission. Perhaps our most spectacular project was the one concerning the saker falcon, because this bird had disappeared from the Romanian fauna ten years ago and after having implemented the project and thanks to our conservation measures, we may say that we have managed to rescue this species from extinction. Similarly, in the Romanian Western Plain, the red-footed falcon, which was a declining species, recovered following our intervention, consisting in an international project financed by the EU, and the number of individuals in this species has grown. As for the lesser spotted eagle, which is an emblematic species for Transylvania, we hope we will manage to stop the decline of this species as well. We’ve also worked a lot with storks. We have initiated the fitting of platforms for the stork nests on electricity poles. We started fitting such platforms in 2000, and in 2014 their number had already reached 2000 across the country. But there is still a lot to be done, not only with respect to storks, but also for other birds that get electrocuted on electricity lines. This is something that kills tens of thousands of birds every year.”
Milvus Group is the only organisation in Romania dealing in caring for and reintroducing wounded birds into the nature. They have also set up a green line aimed to facilitate communication with those who find wounded animals. Tamas Papp:
“15-20 years ago such an initiative was not part of our plans, but we had to do it, because people, aware of our interest in protecting the birds, whenever they found a bird they would bring it to us. Since there was nobody to take care of such animals, we decided to set up this centre, and today we can definitely talk about a successful activity. We work together with Vets4Wild, a veterinarian association. We already have two locations and we have established a national wild animal rescue network. We have tried to include a veterinarian from every county, because rapid intervention is of utmost importance. Whenever a wild bird is found, we must intervene fast. Now we have a well equipped centre in the village of Sansimion, where we have bird houses for wounded birds.”
We asked Tamas Papp, the director of the Milvus Group about his projects for 2017:
“We already have a number of ongoing programmes that will continue into 2017. One of our biggest achievements is the publication of an atlas of nesting birds in Romania together with the Romanian Ornithological Society. We have been working on this for a year and it is an older ambition of ours given that there is no such atlas in Romania containing up-to-date information about the distribution of species in this country. We also have two other projects. One is about the European roller, a very beautiful bird with blue plumage that nests in these parts. The population of this species has decreased in the Western Plain, so we began a project to rescue it. In 2017, we will continue our activities concerning the conservation of prey birds and mammals for we’ve also had many projects for mammals, including large carnivores and lesser-known species.”
Milvus Group is also involved in educational projects in schools, with its members being often invited to talk to children about animals, habitats and their protection. The group also founded the Milvus Scholarship to support young people and students interested in the conservation of nature and help young researchers carry out individual evaluation and research projects.
(Translated by A.M. Popescu and M. Ignatescu)