The Danube Delta in Romania provides a critical refuge for several globally threatened species.
Home to about 330 different bird varieties – including 60% of the world’s pygmy cormorants -spoonbills and herons also inhabit the Delta.
Stocked with a diverse number of fresh water fish the area also boasts one of Europe’s biggest pelican populations.
Dr Viorel Cuzic at the Delta Museum in Tulcea said: “The pelican is the symbol of the Danube Delta. We have more than three and a half thousand pairs. They come here to nest on the floating islands. It’s the ideal place for them to raise their young as they can’t be disturbed there, especially by humans, who are the most disturbing factor.’‘
Pollution, be it from industry or agriculture, and obstruction of the water supply through man-made dams have all disrupted the Delta’s fragile eco-system.
The introduction of non-native species has also had an impact.
The Delta is home to sturgeon, one of the world’s oldest fish species. But, now the area’s population is under threat from poachers.
Laura Haralambie, a fish specialist from Tulcea Aquarium said: “All the sturgeon species are endangered, despite the introduction of a fishing ban in 2006. While they are now protected by animal protection associations, poaching still goes on.’‘
Environmentalists insist more work is needed if the Danube Delta’s unique habitat is to be protected in its current state.