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Albanian hunter Saimir (first name only), from the nearby northern Albanian town of Skhoder, searches the area after shooting a raptor from his position in a tree stand as he hunts in the early morning on Lake Skhoder.

A hunter holds a raptor that he shot on Lake Shkoder in Albania. Before the ban, targets were not just game species but also eagles, cranes, shorebirds, and even small songbirds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GUTTENFELDER, AP

Mel White

for National Geographic

Published February 10, 2014

Vast numbers of European birds and other wildlife will be spared from illegal slaughter, thanks to a two-year moratorium on all hunting enacted by the government of Albania.

The Balkan country, which lies along a major migratory flyway, encompasses wetlands and other habitats that provide crucial refueling stops for millions of migrating birds. But poor law enforcement, a surge in gun ownership, and an influx of foreign hunters had made Albania essentially a year-round shooting range. Targets were not just game species but also eagles, cranes, shorebirds, and even small songbirds.

"Albania was a death trap for migrating birds," said Gabriel Schwaderer, executive director of the conservation organization EuroNatur.

It wasn't just birds that suffered, according to Schwaderer. To study the critically endangered Balkan lynx, EuroNatur set up automatic cameras in mountainous areas, documenting all passing animals. Mammals such as roe deer and chamois that should have been recorded in significant numbers were rarely spotted. "This shows that game animals are in very, very low densities," Schwaderer said.

The new law, approved on January 30, suspends all hunting licenses and use of hunting areas for two years. The government will use this hiatus to study ways to reform conservation regulations and control what had become almost complete lawlessness. Hunters in Albania have long been unafraid to shoot anything that came within range—even in national parks, where wealthy hunters, the majority of them from Italy, bribed poorly paid rangers to serve as guides.

Election, Exposure Prompt Action

While many Albanians, including a substantial number of hunters, realized that the situation had to change, the government showed no interest in strengthening conservation laws, or even in enforcing the regulations that were in place. But elections last June brought a new party to power, with government ministers more sympathetic to conservation.

Spase Shumka, a board member of the environmental group Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania, said an article by writer Jonathan Franzen that appeared in the July 2013 issue of National Geographic ("Last Song for Migrating Birds") "very much had an effect" on the debate over hunting.

"The National Geographic story served as a main reference," Shumka said. "People distributed the article in the ministries, and it was received very positively. It fit in very well with the transitional government period."

Shumka said he and others in Albania "are optimistic that things will change positively because, for the first time, in this law we have effective integration of enforcement."

Before, responsibility for regulating hunting fell solely on the Ministry of Environment, which had little power. "People who were caught illegally hunting or camping or cutting wood in a protected area would be fined, but only one in a hundred would actually pay the fine," Shumka said. "Now the laws will be enforced in cooperation with the state police, which is very important. It's the only authority which has power."

In addition, the law implementing the hunting moratorium requires the cooperation of the Ministry of Finance. "This will mean additional funding for the Inspectorate of Environment," Shumka said.

"It's really an impressive and groundbreaking decision that Albania took," Schwaderer said. "I can imagine that some of the hotel owners are not so happy, because probably they will have fewer visitors, especially hunters from Italy. But on the other side, they have a great opportunity, because only if they stop this crime will they receive bird-watchers and other visitors interested in ecotourism."

22 comments
shanice reid
shanice reid

SWAG SWAG SWAG SO SUPER DUPER COOL BRO WOOOWWWWWWWWW

PasuMan Bonnanye
PasuMan Bonnanye

Very very very good, i wish they can extend the years with at least 1 year to make it 3 years :)

Brian Hermelijn
Brian Hermelijn

Only two years? Then again, at least they started doing something. 

Ronnald Harris
Ronnald Harris

Nice, very nice on making a decision like so. Make more smart ideas to get this world green again. We're not done yet!!

Marek Svanda
Marek Svanda

 Great, It's also good to know that Albanians are well known for being extremely law abiding citizens.

next day
next day

hope they will applay the new low . often they just write lows and nothing in pratice.any way they kill all the rabbits out  there so nothing left.lets hope for the poor birds

Shoq Selimaj
Shoq Selimaj

Some Good News - I've lived in a hotel in Albania for the last 4 years, inside a "National Park" (no actual staff, just volunteers) - but we've never had anyone arrive to sleep in the hotel to do hunting (I'm not saying people might not drive in), whereas the majority of our guests are birdwatchers and nature lovers.  So that's one battle maybe we don't need to worry about :)

J.a. Jackson
J.a. Jackson

Looking at the surroundings and settings of the picture shown, I have to ask myself one question.  Why would this hunter want to kill a bird of prey? 

david Pierre
david Pierre

I like the fact that things are being done to save not only the song bird, but animals all over the world. In Trinidad the government has imposed a 2 year hunting ban. I really like that they are showing consideration for the other inhabitants of the earth.

Ricardo Kulturweit
Ricardo Kulturweit

One question for Mr. Schwaderer, how is it possible that EuroNatur almost simultaneously supports workshops that promote hunting tourism in Albania, especially in an habitat of the threatened Balkan lynx?

"The workshop was organised by PPNEA with help and facilitation by the international partner, EuroNatur.

The participants were divided in four working groups, concentrated in four major themes that had been previously defined within Activity 1 of the project, namely:

2. Hunting and wildlife tourism (Eriola Katiaj – Group speaker, Enver Koci, Veri Bicaku, Gani Brazhda, Arif Tamizi, Murat Laska)"


http://ppnea.org/blog.php?entry_id=1392069291&title=first-workshop-on-sustainable-development-practices-in-shebenik-jabllanica--np


jagr rio
jagr rio

I just wanna kill every living creature, ...before they're all gone.

Vonne Pitcher
Vonne Pitcher

Good on the Albanian Government.  Let's hope they find a permanent solution to a situation that should have never been allowed to develop in the first place.

Paul Clapham
Paul Clapham

Sounds good on paper... Put a note in your calendar to follow up a year from now and see how well enforcement is working!

mike anderson
mike anderson

because he is unethical and not a real hunter hes out to just kill i run into hunters like that all over all you can do is shame them and report them people like this should not have a hunting licence like they don't have any morals or respect

Shoq Selimaj
Shoq Selimaj

@Ricardo Kulturweit  

Talking about something is not the same thing as supporting it, Duh. From what I know, PPNEA is doing intelligent work to study hunters and their interests, in order to facilitate a transition to state of regulated hunting - involving hunters is the surest way of obtaining their cooperation. 

Angie Rother (EuroNatur)
Angie Rother (EuroNatur)

@Ricardo Kulturweit  

Dear Mr. Kulturweit,

maybe the wording of this agenda item is a bit misleading. Of course EuroNatur and PPNEA do not promote any hunting tourism activities. Rather we take efforts to promote sustainable wildlife tourism (like bird watching etc.) on local and national level as a promising alternative to hunting tourism and poaching - as we did in the mentioned workshop in Shebenik-Jablanica-NP.

 Angie (from the EuroNatur team )

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