Posted Friday, December 16, 2016 at 9:47pm by Andrej Vizi
Curious nature conservation at Skadar Lake– otters vs. pelicans!
“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” – a quote that often occurs to us when we already break something!
So, the pelicans at Skadar Lake have been doing quite well in last three years – once at the verge of extinction, our pelicans have managed to maintain good reproductive success, mainly because of the new solid breeding platform built for them in 2014.
However, this structure proves to be interesting not only to these giants: on several occasions this December, our surveillance camera has spotted at least two otters (Lutra lutra) snooping around the pelican colony. This raft essentially represents the only patch of solid ground in the area, at least in winter, so no wonder that different species are attracted to it. Right now, when the pelicans aren’t breeding yet, it’s not a big deal
Otters, although widespread throughout the Old world, are very secluded and hard to spot at Skadar Lake. There are almost no data on their numbers and burrow locations. Once numerous, the otter has declined dramatically over the years due to hunting. The recent video captured at Skadar Lake is the first solid evidence of its presence in decades, which further confirms the value of this ecosystem as a well preserved freshwater habitat. You can see the video here:
The otters are carnivores, very skilled and intelligent hunters that eat mostly fish, but also crayfish, snails, small mammals and, alas, the birds and their eggs!
Both species are regarded as “flagships” of the freshwater fauna, providing the “face” and a success measure of the environment conservation efforts. But what if these efforts are opposed? In a perfect ecosystem, these interactions between species comprise a normal part of natural mortality. For example, the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) takes its toll every year on the eggs of Whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybridus), but the terns still manage to survive.
But, are the rare Dalmatian pelican, and equally endangered otter in the same relation? Ecologically speaking, they are. On the other hand, there are plenty of other resources for both the avian and the mammalian flagships in this story. As a matter of fact, there is still no evidence that otters steal pelicans’ eggs and chicks at Skadar Lake. We wait and see.
Learn more about Skadar lake and meet the renowned Ornitholigist Adrej Vizi on our 7 day Montenegro tour.
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