- Once again, we wish you all a happy, successful and above all, healthy new year! 🎉 We hope and believe it will bring us a lot of good. Not only to us, but also to the nature that we are part of and that is part of us. The nature we cannot live without, which nourishes, heals, inspires and relaxes us. 🌱
Looking back to the important moments for nature that happened in 2022, we dare to say that thanks to the successful 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference – COP15 last year was more than good. Therefore, all of us nature lovers who know that the preservation of nature is not only in our hands, but also in the hands of world leaders and owners of large companies, had a reason to open the champagne even ten days before New Year’s Eve. 🍾 Why? The Conference was finished with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Agreement, committing the world to halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. That is a global goal hailed as the equivalent of climate’s 1.5C. A total of 196 countries under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to conserve at least 30% of land, freshwater and ocean globally, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. However, this does not mean it’s enough to just celebrate the achievement of this goal – for its implementation it is necessary to ensure 200 billion USD on a yearly basis!
Knowing that almost one species becomes extinct every hour, we are aware of the success of such an agreement, which we have been looking towards for many years. Exactly that realisation – that every hour in the world almost one species goes extinct – was the guiding thread of this year’s Earth Hour that WWF Adria organised in our region. We marked it by creating a big mural in Belgrade, Serbia that shows the importance of bees as a symbol of biodiversity. We have also launched a regional campaign that raises awareness about the loss of biodiversity, with a focus on our endangered species: Balkan lynx, Great bustard, Beluga sturgeon, Olm, Mediterranean monk seal and Angelshark. 🐾
Angelshark – an amazing shark that got its name after an angel gave us a reason to celebrate in 2022. We have conducted eDNA analysis in the sea area near Molat island and it has proven the existence of Angelshark in the Adriatic sea. That is amazing news as previously it was thought that this shark species has gone extinct in our sea.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a scientific method that can determine the existence of a species’ DNA in an area by taking samples of seawater from those locations and putting them through laboratory analysis. Confirming the existence of Angleshark in Molat water area is one of the first conditions for protecting this amazing species. At the same time, it pushes us to continue our research and preserve this shark species significant for the entire marine world. Learn more about Angelshark in this video. 🦈
Besides proving that angelshark still swim in our sea, we are also proud of our cooperation with Croatian small-scale fishers! Together we are searching for a way to move fisheries towards greater sustainability – economic and ecological – and ensure that fishing pressure on the sea is smaller than sea capacity and its power to restore its fish stock. That way we will keep fishing tradition and full seas for future generations. On this path where the fishers themselves are becoming guardians of the sea, we have made a step forward in 2022 when, with the support of WWF, two professional fishery cooperatives were founded with sustainability included in their business principles. These cooperatives are Velebitski Škampioni, a shrimp cooperative from the Velebit Channel, and Noćna morina, a fishery cooperative from Lastovo. 🌊
Crimes against nature and the environment are the fourth most lucrative activity of organised crime in the world, after human, drugs and weapon trafficking. They cost us up to $258 billion, and the damage to our planet is incalculable – a significant reduction in biodiversity and the complete extinction of some plant and animal species. Wildlife crimes are more common in the region than is known, and recent examples of a lost lion cub in Montenegro, missing panther in Serbia and transport of an adult tiger by ferry in Croatia make just a small part of it. In order to raise awareness and improve the prosecution of these crimes, we have published national reports for Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. These reports provide insights into the most common wildlife crimes in each of those three countries, the animal species that are most affected and recommendations for reducing and discouraging such crimes. 🚫
We also worked with youth a lot last year! In Serbia, we joined forces with young people to tackle climate change and move towards just transition. We’ve cooperated with 118 high school and university students that designed their own solutions for tackling local and global climate challenges. They engaged their peers and reached a whopping 328 young people, directly involving them in youth-led projects.
On International Youth Day, our young colleagues raised their voices about the importance of joint and intergenerational action, and we supported them in setting up the art installation „The future we want„ in the Belgrade Botanical Garden.
We used that day to also launch our new youth website. The website is imagined as a key platform for information about our work with youth, but also the place where young people interested in nature and climate topics can share their opinions and promote their work on these topics. At the moment, it is only available in the Serbian language, but we are working on the English version. 🎨
Students also had a chance to learn about just energy transition. And there was an award too! The winning team of seven young people that participated in webinars, seminars, live lectures and a hackathon visited Sofia and participated in the final conference there. The winning idea “Obrenovac – Zelenovac” was also declared the most realistic one at the regional meeting in Bulgaria, where we met with the winning teams from North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Montenegro. 🟢
In both Croatia and Slovenia, we carried out a series of activities related to youth, encouraging them to fight climate change. Educational and awareness-raising workshops „Electric mobility for young people“ were held in elementary schools across Slovenia, where many young people learned about the advantages and challenges of sustainable e-mobility and tried out various electric mobility devices themselves. In cooperation with the Center of interesting activities for young people in Ptuj, we opened an artistic lightbox exhibition. In order to draw attention to the devastating consequences of climate change, young artists painted large lightboxes with various motifs – artistic lightboxes, and then impressed with a performance on the topic of excessive consumption and massive environmental pollution. They also presented interesting ways of sustainable nutritional habits. ⚡
We also held educational workshops in four schools in Croatia. We’ve decorated elementary schools in Osijek, Rijeka, Sisak and Zagreb with murals spreading a powerful message about the devastating impact of climate change and the importance of preserving the environment from negative human impact on entire ecosystems.
We should not forget about our work with children either! For several years now, we have been successfully conducting the WWF Nature Academy. Now, we have decided to present it in a special e-monograph. The goal of the Academy over the last four years was for school children and their teachers to learn about nature in nature – and to do it by connecting schools with protected areas, which will serve as outdoor classrooms. We believe that exposure to nature at an early age is the best way to make the appreciation for its beauty and the desire to preserve it a lifelong commitment. Flip through our monograph and find out more! 🌳
Okay, we have worked with youth a lot! But that is not all. It is extremely important to include civil society organisations in nature conservation. For that reason, we have given our financial and advisory support to the civil sector, which then implemented 24 projects in the field of management, monitoring and education in protected areas in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia. All of their work is shown in this video.
In 2022 we organised another Parks Dinarides conference which resulted in a joint declaration of civil society organisations for better implementation of the Green Agenda in the Western Balkans region. The declaration was sent to the European Commission, and in it, the EU and governments are asked to ensure inclusive, transparent and meaningful participation of the civil sector in the plans and projects of the Green Agenda. This event, organised in Sarajevo, brought together 150 participants, including representatives from 70 protected areas and about 50 civil society organisations from Albania, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, as well as representatives from relevant ministries and institutions.
The conference ended with a panel dedicated to the role of women in nature conservation, where representatives of the civil sector, managers and politicians talked about challenges and experiences in their work. It was a perfect opportunity to present our newest video about women in nature conservation! 🍀
We must emphasise the openness of our institutions to the revitalization of water ecosystems. In partnership with the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, we’ve started preparatory activities that will result in the removal of artificial barriers and the revitalization of old streams on the Bijela River. We launched our dam removal activities in Slovenia, too! This spring, in partnership with the Sevnica Fishing Family, we will remove the Kopitarna dam on the Sevnična River, which has been blocking the path for fish for decades. By removing the long-defunct dam, the natural balance in and along the river will be improved. This is the first campaign of its kind in Slovenia, and we have also started the project to remove the Vrbovo dam on the Reka River. 🏞
Let’s not forget the special focus of our work – the protection of the Amazon of Europe! We have just completed the multi-year LifelineMDD project through which we networked across borders and invested many hours in scientific progress and laying the foundation for education. We are seeing improvement at three pilot locations on the Mura and Drava rivers! You can watch a short „slice from the life“ of our project in our video.
But the work in that area does not end there! We are very pleased to announce that we have just launched the five-year project „Revitalization of the Amazon of Europe“, which is being carried out in the area of the five-country UNESCO Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve. Through this project, we will revitalize various ecosystems along the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers at four locations in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. The local population will be directly involved from the beginning of the project and will be supported in the development of sustainable forms of business through the implementation of a sustainable economic incubator. 🔹
The restoration of freshwater habitats is one of the key directions of our work. In the past year, we started the restoration of Hutovo Blato in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In cooperation with the Public Enterprise „Hutovo Blato“ Nature Park, the first cleaning and restoration activities of part of the habitat were carried out in the summertime. We will continue with these activities within the ‘Merlin’ project over the next few years. In addition to the reconstruction of part of that wetland, we will try to demonstrate nature-based solutions for adapting to climate change.
We should also point out that less than three months ago we published our Living Planet Report, a scientific study that reveals an average decline of 69% in species populations since 1970. It is all due to unsustainable human activity. Although this figure is disturbing, with a positive attitude towards nature, we can reverse this negative trend.
Let’s not end on that sad note! We have one more bit of good news left: our petition calling on leaders to create a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, which was signed by more than 2.2 million people worldwide, was successful! In March 2022, the UN member states unanimously agreed to develop such an agreement by 2024. To that extent, we are looking forward to 2023! Let it be successful for nature and people, and let us all say no to plastics now! We don’t have to wait until 2024.
Once again, from the bottom of our hearts, happy new year! 🐼
WWF Adria Team
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