Eurasian Spoonbill Conservation

To restore habitat for and monitor populations of Eurasian spoonbills in Croatia

 

The intensification of agriculture in the Sava Wetlands drained 5'000 km² of regularly flooded riverside pastureland and woods in the 1970 and 80s. This process impacted the breeding sites of the Eurasian Spoonbill, Platalea leucorodia, along the Save river. Airplains flew over the colony spraying herbicides and the tractors went as near as 20 m to the spoonbills nests. In 1988 still 150 - 180 pairs could be counted in Krapje Doll Sactuary, but in 1989, after the draining of the KrapjeDol, an old oxbow of the Save river, no spoonbills were nesting any longer.

The Institute for Natural and Cultural Heritage Conservation of Croatia, EuroNatur and the Zoological Society of Frankfurt implemented a concept for the restoration of the oxbow and supported the establishment of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park. In 1990 The Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, an area of 50'600 hectars, was officialised by the Croatian parliament. The aim of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park is the preservation of the floodplain ecosystem constituted of annually flooded alluvial pastureland and forests. Endangered domestic breeds are integrated in the park management to maintain the pastureland.

 

The programme aims to support the long-term protection of the spoonbill breeding colony. It supports different actions are undertaken by the Nature Park Service including habitat protection and restoration of the oxbow and its surrounding areas (converting arable land into pastures); monitoring of the population, also in the migration corridor (annual survey, colour ringing); improvement of the nesting sites if necessary (building of platforms, removing shrubs); and environmental education (observation platform, information center).

Two important steps were necessary for the recovery of the colony. First, in 1989, a project was launched by the institute and EuroNatur to restore the water level in the oxbow. A pipe was built to re-flood the area. The ZGF financially supported the work. In 1991 the first few spoonbills returned. After two years the old colony came back to life. In 2004 the colony has reached 80 pairs of spoonbills and 370 herons. Krapje Dol is also famous for its water vegetation. It is one of the very few locations where Stratiotes aloides was found floating again on the open water.

The second step was more difficult. When the new Nature Park was provisionally established in 1997, EuroNatur planned to restore 50 ha of pasture in order to create a buffer zone for the spoonbill colony. With the help of EAF the right of use for this area of arable land was transferred from the former state Agro-Industrial-Kombinat (PIK) to the Park Service. The EAF money was used in cooperation with EuroNatur to prepare the land for cattle, build the fence around it and create a small access path to the new pasture. The German Embassy supported the project by providing a new well with drinking water for the animals. Finally, local farmers used the area again. Since winter 2004/05 the area has been used to preserve one of the most endangered domestic breeds in Croatia: the Salvonian-Syrmian Podolian Grey Cattle, a cow similar to the Hungarian Grey Cattle.

 

Similarly to the early eighties, the spoonbill colony is now buffered by a pasture, where white storks and lesser-spotted eagles hunt.

 

In addition, the park started in 2004 an educational programme: posters and folders for visitor groups were published with the help of a EU Life Project and an observation platform has been built, which is a reconstruction of the chardaks, the watch towers of the former Military Frontier.

WAZA Conservation Project 09004 is supported by the Zürich Zoo, EuroNatur - European Nature Heritage Fund, the Croatian Society for the Protection of Birds, the Zoological Society Frankfurt, and the Deutsche Investions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft.

 

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