With its more than 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) of travel from Greece’s Pindus Mountains to Albania’s Adriatic coast, the Vjosa River passes through the habitats of more than 1,100 animal species, including otters, Egyptian vultures, and Baltic lynxes.
It Also Recently Become the First Wild River National Park in Europe.
Now we conserve once and for all the sole wild river in Europe, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said at the designation ceremony, as The Guardian reported.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the groups that pushed for the creation of the park, claims that the Vjosa is one of the only undeveloped rivers in Europe outside of Russia. From gorges at the beginning of its voyage to a delta at the end, it travels through a diversity of terrain.
At least eight different habitat types are represented in the middle section alone. The region is also home to a wealth of biological diversity, including two plant species and 13 animal species that the IUCN has listed as threatened.
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The Website for The New Park Claims that Because Freshwater Ecosystems Are the Most Endangered in The World, Protecting Them Is Extremely Crucial.
Freshwater species populations worldwide have decreased by 84 percent since 1970, and migratory fish populations in Europe have decreased by 94 percent. The new park contains Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its two-story 17th-century buildings, in addition to conserving natural marvels.
According to Albania’s Minister of Tourism and Environment Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi, “Vjosa is a symbol of human history and a very important element of the history of our country. Albania may not have the ability to alter the world, but it can develop effective models for safeguarding natural resources and biodiversity. We are happy to announce the establishment of this first National Park on one of the last remaining wild rivers in Europe.
Vjosa s protection was not inevitable. The river faced dangers from 40 planned hydropower plants either on the river itself or on its tributaries, a proposed airport near its mouth, and even oil exploration by Shell, according to The group Save the Blue Heart of Europe. IUCN notes that the alliance did join forces with IUCN, regional and international specialists, and the outdoor apparel firm Patagonia to support a park.
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The Albanian administration took notice. The Vjosa Wild River National Park was finally established after nine months of study and consultations, as promised by Rama, Kumbaro, and Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert in June 2022.
According to Gellert in the IUCN release, this unusual partnership between the government, civil society, and business is proof of the effectiveness of group efforts.
We hope it will encourage others to work together to meaningfully safeguard the remaining wild areas. We are humbled to know that this wonderful river and its species will be preserved forever as we stand on the banks of the Vjosa today.