The Involvement Of The Romanian Ornithological Society In The Protection Of Birds

Romanian Ornithological Society Area Manager, Tulcea Branch

A few years ago I was the guide to the Danube Delta of a member of the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He had been to many reservations, not only in Europe, and at the end of the day, when we discussed the impression the Delta had made on him, he confessed that he hadn't expected to discover such avifaunistic richness in Europe. He had only seen it in Africa, and I took him for his word, as I knew he had been working for many years in South Africa. The hundreds of glossy ibises, egrets, herons of so many kinds, the thousands of pelicans and pygmy cormorants, even if they are not rarities to an ornithologist, may impress any connoisseur, at least through abundance. I may add the impression made on regular tourists by the huge numbers of rollers, hoopoes and kingfishers that, with their lively colors, enhance the magic of a vast wetland, in the reed bed of which – the largest in the world – nest and feed hundreds of thousands of birds. Every visitor is amazed by the beauty of a reservation that managed to survive despite tremendous pressure during the communist period. Soon after the 1989 revolution, through the joined efforts of a few enthusiastic ornithologists, the Romanian Ornithological Society was founded, which from the very beginning focused on the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, the most precious jewel in the crown of Romanian reservations. SOR became a partner of BirdLife International, a global partnership of bird protection organizations from over 100 countries. With the generous help of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, in 1995 a SOR Danube Delta branch opened in Tulcea, which in cooperation with the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has initiated many projects, such as long-term monitoring of the birds in the Reserve or the protection of endangered species. The importance of this reserve stems both from the large number of species that may be found here in various periods of the year (over 300, of which 166 nesting), and from the major role it plays for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds from north-eastern Europe that stop over on their way to the Bosporus. As a consequence, the Reserve has been designated the most important Natura 2000 site in Romania and one of the most important of Europe, as well as a Special Protection Area for birds, in accordance with the Birds Directive. The most recent projects with SOR-BirdLifeRomania participation are: Life-saving Pelecanus crispus in the Danube Delta (with the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve) and Monitoring and protecting the red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) in its wintering and feeding places in the Danube Delta and Dobruja. As SOR began to understand that, in order to be successful, and also to raise public awareness, people are needed with a good knowledge of birds and their needs, it started educational activities in all the schools in the area, printed thousands of flyers, brochures and posters to be distributed in these schools, and concluded partnerships with the interested ones. The School Inspectorate helped set up the Falco Cherrug students' ornithological club, affiliated with SOR and permanently supported by it with binoculars and English, French and German field guides. In 1999, with support from other BirdLife International organizations, SOR translated into Romanian and published an indispensable tool for Romanian birdwatchers, the famous Hamlyn Guide. In addition, with the help of ADDBR, National Ornithological Summer Camps are organized every year at the end of August for young people and volunteers from all over the country – although most are from Tulcea and the Delta area, because it is here that bird lovers and specialists are needed most for the immense Delta birds monitoring network to become truly efficient. Aside from capturing and ringing actions, young people are involved in protection and ecological activities, and learn to work in teams in harsh field conditions. Every year we are looking for volunteers, as well as sponsors to help us carry on this 15-year tradition.

by Eugen Petrescu