On June 5 of each year we honor the incredible natural heritage of the Earth celebrating the World Environment Day. The day, which was established in 1972 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, remembers the first major summit to talk about global environment: the Stockholm Conference on the Environment. From that big meeting it was born the UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program with the aim to emphasize the importance of nature, without which our lives would be turned upside down, and to reflect on the actions that everyone can take to improve the conditions of their environment. As World Environment Day, is truly a people’s day. It is the chance for everyone, young and old, to show that we all care for our planet. 2016 Environemt Day theme is ‘Fight against the illegal trade in wildlife’.

For two years birds and mammals were spared from slaughter courtesy of a moratorium on all hunting enacted by the government of Albania. Nevertheless, hunters and poacher still play cat and mouse across the countryside – and fawns and wild pork are still being brought down almost at will. The law that was approved on 30 January 2014 suspended all hunting licenses and use of hunting areas for two years is just voted in Parliament to get an extension for another five years.

“We have been forced to adopt strict measures to protect endangered species from illegal hunting,” the Minister of Environment Lefter Koka said. Even though the moratorium is still in force, illegal hunting, poaching and trapping has increased and intensified significantly. From the field observations The Association for the Protection and Preservation of the Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) and the Albanian Society for the Protection of Birds and Mammals (ASPBM) have observed that illegal hunting is practiced mainly over weekends (especially on Sundays) and the first hours of the morning and during the night.

This is the time when law enforcement authorities do not have enough surveillance over the territory, which is best used by poachers. The illegal hunting is evidenced throughout the country, even inside protected areas, be those lowland wetlands or mountain ecosystems.

Even protected and endangered species in the Red List of Fauna in Albania are heavily hunted, such as birds of prey, roe deer, wolf, wild boar, etc. The Ministry of Environment says that brown bears and eagles are now seriously endangered in mountainous areas of Albania. The most problematic areas are the coastline wetlands such as the Patoku Lagoon in Lezha district, the Fllaka wetland nearby Durresi, the Viluni Lagoon in Shkodra district, wetland areas Vjosa-Narta in the Vlora region, etc., where just during the last weeks the hunters’ area has doubled. The same problematic situation is present in mountainous areas as well, especially in the Puke-Mirdite region, Korca region, Tropoja region, etc. The specialists from the Ministry of Environment say that the moratorium has positively impacted on the number of birds and mammals, while for hunters this is the death of their sport and passion. The situation in Albania was out of control in the last few years and many hunters, even from neighboring countries like Italy, would visit the country and shoot at anything because of the very poor law enforcement.

The country had turned into a year-round shooting range. All of it came into light when the world famous writer Jonathan Franzen visited the country in February 2012 to witness the carnage first hand. His article in the National Geographic described in detail his personal experience with regards to the lawless situation of poaching in Albania and stressed the seriousness of the conservation impact on birds and the urgency for action./AgroWeb.org