Albania has taken a historic step in nature conservation by declaring the Vjosa River Europe‘s first wild river national park and placing an extensive area of 31,500 hectares under protection. The Vjosa River, which is considered one of the last large natural rivers in Europe, boasts an impressive biodiversity and is home to over 1100 animal and plant species, of which 13 animal and two plant species are classified as globally threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The importance of the Vjosa lies not only in its rich ecological diversity, but also in the fact that there are no man-made obstacles such as dams or power stations, leaving the ecosystem largely undisturbed. This thriving habitat is home to various endangered species, including otters, the critically endangered Balkan lynx, whose population in Albania is estimated at 10 and only 40 in total, and the also endangered Egyptian vulture.
The conservation measures will be carried out in two phases, with Phase I declaring the active river channel and associated areas, covering a total length of over 400 kilometers, a national park. It is expected that the management of this area will be fully operational by the beginning of 2024. In Phase II, the protected area will be extended to other free-flowing tributaries and regions that are of crucial importance to the river‘s ecosystem.
Albania aims to serve as a role model for biodiversity conservation and is proud to establish the first national park on one of Europe‘s last remaining wild rivers. By protecting the pristine beauty and ecological balance of the Vjosa, Albania hopes to inspire and encourage other governments around the world to adopt and implement similar conservation measures for their natural treasures.