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SPECIAL REPORT/ Borderless! Limitless! How saving endangered birds builds a European future for WB Region

12 July 2022/

  • Center for Protection and Research of Birds in Montenegro (CZIP), Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia and Albanian Ornithological Society are grantees of our 4th CfP
  • CZIP, an NGO established in 2001, has already an impressive background and results in the protection of endangered species
  • Thanks to WBF/EU funding, the project under implementation enables them to tackle the “black spots”, the places where birds face dangers because of habitat degradation of human activity
  • The protection of rare species improves the biodiversity of the Region, bringing tangible benefits to large communities and to public authorities

In the sweltering heat of the Albanian summer, near the coastal city of Saranda, young people from the Region, equipped with large binoculars, peer through a flock of storks. The scrutiny of curios locals and tourists does not distract them. Their mission is clear: safeguarding the habitat and biodiversity, which in turn protects endangered bird species. The challenges are enormous; but they will point out: Birds do not know administrative borders invented by humans. “To save them, we need to be together and act together”.

The project implemented by the Center for Protection and Research of Birds (CZIP) in Montenegro, in cooperation with the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia and Albanian Ornithological Society, is one of the most inclusive actions funded by the WBF/EU Joint Action of the 4th Call for Proposals.

The final beneficiaries include local communities and authorities, protected areas and parks, ornithologists, ecologists, the research community, bird-enthusiasts and tourists. Collecting data over the crucial Adriatic Flyway, this partnership fuels advocacy and long-term policy measures that protect endangered habitats and species.

Shortly after the finalisation of the project’s first step, in between the camps of Albania and Serbia, we had the pleasure to meet with Jovana Drobnjak, an environmental activist and part of the CZIP staff.

She quickly points out that what they are doing is not an experiment. In more than 20 years of lifespan, CZIP has already achieved tangible results.

“The protection of Ulcinj Salina is one of our greatest achievements. We fought a war for many years, and that War was the breaking point for many things. It was a breaking point in the mentality of how we think and act to protect the endangered habitat. It was a breaking point also for us, as we started to grow very fast. We now have 15 employees and the capacities to do great things because we have many activists and passionate people who want to protect the nature, who believe and follow us”, says Jovana.

We fought a war for many years and it was a breaking point in the mentality of how we think and act to protect the endangered habitat

Ulcinj Salina is a habitat where more than 100 species thrive, some of which are vulnerable or close to extinction. Among them are the Collared Pranticole, the Northen Lapwing and the European Roller, depicted in our pictures.

Fast forward, the project supported by the Western Balkans Fund is one of the many projects CZIP implements each year. However, our regional context brings a unique value to the cause. “Collaboration between different Contracting Parties is essential because birds have large territories. Birds don’t know the artificial borders people make, and this is a thing we should be aware of. For them, borders do not exist, and we want to improve the cooperation in the Region for birds and everyone. Our project is also about breaking down borders. We must be aware that borders are artificial and that many difficulties come from not listening to what the other is saying. We are trying to remove that mentality”, she adds.


Collaboration between different Contracting Parties is essential because birds have large territories. Birds don’t know the artificial borders people make, and this is a thing we should be aware of

We wonder what CZIP can achieve by tracking the selected species with the advanced telemetry and GPS that the birds will carry on their long road from the Western Balkans to the African wetlands, a thousand kilometres apart.

“We expect two types of results. The scientific part is more familiar to us because we are working with that. The species that are tracked in the three CPs are endangered. While we are very interested in the migrational aspect, as all of them are migrational, we need to learn more about their routes and their difficulties. Thanks to telemetry, we can discover the black spots, the places they face difficulties or where they are killed during the route. The aim is to intervene in those spots, improving the habitat and providing food for the birds, so they will survive through those spots and come back in larger numbers. We also want to discover if they will come back next year, in 2-3 years or if they are shifting to a more suitable habitat. We can learn all of this only through thorough research”.

The second dimension of the project is less technical. It is about making humans fall in love. “We aim to build capacities. Unfortunately, not so many young peoples want to work as ornithologists. Not so many people believe that they can earn a living through birds. This is why it is imperative to have as many people as possible in our camps. It is an opportunity for young people to think that protecting habitats and birds can be more than just a passion. The same also goes for our partners”.

The project started with the camp in a wetland in Albania, where tracers were put on storks. The biggest surprise at the camp was the appearance of an Egyptian Vulture, already extinct in Montenegro. It continues in Serbia, where the main aim is to locate and trace the Eastern Iberian Eagle, another vulnerable animal, and it will end with the last and final camp in Montenegro.

As we are an NGO, our work depends on donations, but we always try hard to retain the scientific part of our studies because it is the most important for the decision-makers in the Region

“As we are an NGO, our work depends on donations, but we always try hard to retain the scientific part of our studies because it is the most important for the decision-makers in the Region. For sure, there will be some valuable lessons to be learned. For us, it is very important to strengthen collaboration between NGOs in all the WB, because we can do great things together”, she adds.

Borderless. Limitless. Not only the sky but also the love of Jovana for our small friends. “The first time I held a bird, it was something indescribable, a love at first sight”. But, borderless is also the unique bond between the participants from all over the region in the three Camps.

By saving birds, maybe, just maybe, we also learn how to save ourselves from prejudices or the artificial boundaries that we raise. Because that’s certain, if we want to protect the environment and the biodiversity, we can do that only by acting together.