WITH tourists home, boats docked and factories silenced under a coronavirus lockdown, Albania’s pink flamingos and curly pelicans are flourishing in the newfound tranquillity of lagoons dotting the country’s western coastline.
Beating their pink and black-lined wings, a growing flock of thousands of flamingos have recently been soaring over and splashing in the glistening waters of Narta Lagoon, an important site for migratory birds on the Adriatic coast.
Their numbers have increased by nearly a third up to some 3,000 since January, according to park authorities.
With humans kept home under lockdown, “wildlife have regained all of their absolute rights and are enjoying all the freedoms of nature,” Nexhip Hysolakoj, the chief of the protected area, told AFP from the shores of the placid lagoon.
In recent years unchecked urbanisation, a growing tourism footprint and industrial activity have threatened ecosystems in the protected zone surrounded by scrubby hills.
The coronavirus lockdown imposed on March 9, however, has brought a welcome reprieve.
Gone are the churning engines of fishing boats and the dozens of ferries and other vessels that normally depart daily from the nearby port of Vlora.
Car traffic on a busy road only 500 metres away has also been reduced, adding to the quiet and protecting land animals.
And nearby factories who have come under scrutiny for polluting the waters with waste, such as a leather processing plant and an olive oil producer, are dormant.
– ‘Time for love’ –
Conservationists hope the quiet will encourage the graceful birds to take the next step and mate.
Over the past three weeks, couples have been “moving a little further into the lagoon and are now starting courtship rituals,” said Hysolokaj.
The author of Albania’s first bird guide, Mirjan Topi, said the conditions are perfect for the flamingos to start reproducing in the Balkan state.
[caption id="attachment_16262" align="alignnone" width="300"] Unchecked urbanisation, a growing tourism footprint and industrial activity have threatened flamingo ecosystems in Albania in recent yearsToday silence reigns with restaurants and hotels, including dozens of illegally constructed buildings, closed.
The pelicans, plus flamingos, bald eagles and Ibis falcinella are enjoying the peace, gathering on deserted pathways normally teeming with tourists.
Koci hopes health crisis that has caused almost 30 deaths in Albania will be an opportunity to rebalance tourism and the protection of biodiversity in Albania.
“I would be selfish to say that only nature counts,” he said.
But “urgent measures are needed to put an end to the abuses that have so badly damaged ecosystems”.