The global Covid 19 pandemic may hamper the physical meeting but not the action. At this time, while the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) has returned to nest again in our country, the action at the local level to protect it from numerous threats is a must. And just as essential is the awareness and creation of local conservation groups that ensure the implementation of activities and stronger conservation of this species through wider public participation.

Based on this goal, AOS helped formalizing the “Conservation Youth Club in Gjirokastra”. We held last weekend, April 25, 2020, the first meeting that led to the creation and formalization of the group. Today, the club consists of 15 passionate students of the High School “Asim Zeneli”, in Gjirokastra, led by the talented teacher and our friend Dr. Gentjan Hykaj, supported by the Albanian Ornithological Society (AOS).

The group discussed in depth the conservation status of vultures and especially the Egyptian Vulture in Albania, the importance of Gjirokastra region as the castle of Egyptian Vulture in the country, the need for protection from numerous threats, the activities for the conservation of the species and the different approaches to directly involve and engage the youngsters in every conservation action.

Once a common bird in Albania, today the Egyptian Vulture occupys only 9 territories in the country. All the territories are located in the watershed of Vjosa river, in the south of the country, specifically in the area of ​​Mallakastra, Gjirokastra, Tepelena, and Përmet

Unfortunately, the population of Egyptian Vulture has experienced a drastic decline in recent years at national, regional and global level. The latest monitoring, undertaken in 2019, estimates that the population in Albania consists of only 6 pairs and 3 other single individuals.

This migratory bird, a summer visitor and breeding in Albania, faces many threats during the epic return journey from Africa and during the breeding season. Poisoning, electrocution, collision, habitat degradation and persecution are some of the threatening factors.

Therefore, it is clear that the survival of the Egyptian Vulture depends largely on the implementation of immediate conservation measures that prevent poisoning, insulate the problematic electric poles, protect the habitats, prevent nest disturbance and raise awareness on the importance of the species conservation.

The establishment of the Conservation Youth Club, Gjirokastra is a step in the right path for the conservation of this species in Albania. When the Egyptian Vulture will enter the region’s daily vocabulary, when all the people talk about this flagship species, we will probably have achieved the most important victory for its recovery in Albania.

Right after the pandemics, we will be again in the field with the Conservation Youth Club in Gjirokastra to undertake project activities and increase local capacities in bird and nature conservation.

We are hopeful that the contribution of the youth club, this new group of enthusiastic students, is the right incentive in the right time.

Albanian Ornithological Society thanks the excellent students of Asim Zeneli high school and we are grateful to the talented teacher, Dr. Gentjan Hykaj!

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