Credit: CZIP

How saving flamingos puts Montenegro one step closer to EU membership

A unique Montenegrin migratory bird paradise at the salt pans of Ulcinj Salina was finally declared a protected nature zone by local officials this week – a huge victory for the Balkan nature lovers who have been campaigning to protect the site for years.

The salt pans of Ulcinj Salina, home to around 252 bird species such as flamingos, Dalmatian Pelicans and Spotted Redshanks, are a rare example of a man-made landscape that became an important resting and nesting site for thousands of birds – dubbed the avian ‘Heathrow’.

A major salt works complex operated at Ulcinj Salina from the 1920s until 2013, but the future of the site was thrown into question in 2008 when the site’s owners won governmental approval for controversial plans to drain the site and develop a luxury tourist resort on the salt pans.

Local campaigners at BirdLife Montenegro have spent nearly ten years warning of how such plans pose a serious risk for the birds that rely on optimal water levels at Ulcinj Salina for nesting and foraging. They led the international #SaveSalina campaign to draw wider attention to the issue, which led to protection and management of the site being listed as one of the conditions Montenegro must meet for future EU membership to be on the cards.