Conserving Prespa is impossible without transboundary collaboration at all levels of governance. The project ‘Working towards transboundary conservation of the Prespa region by common actions raised by PrespaNet partners’ delivered in North Macedonia by the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) has laid the foundation for efficient transboundary coordination and collaboration in the Prespa basin. The project itself was supported by PONT and the Aage. V. Jensen Charity Foundation.
Over the course of 2019-2020, PrespaNet initiated collaborative working around research, conservation, and education. This resulted in shared learning and the following achievements:
- Significant increase in knowledge of shoreline habitats in Prespa along with the first wetland management (wet meadows) and restoration (alder forests) activities in North Macedonia;
- Standardized ecological educational packages implemented with children and teachers throughout the Prespa basin and a brand-new environmental field programme for high-school students from Resen, resulting in a detailed habitat and monitoring guide.
- Annual summer camps brought students from all three countries together with one unifying goal in mind – learning about Prespa, from Prespa and investing in its future study and conservation;
- First continuous and systematic insight on large carnivores and meso-mammals throughout the Prespa basin, along with a detailed study of brown bear diet, movement, habitat suitability, and populations size (through genetic insight);
- A strengthened partnership among NGO actors in the Prespa basin, their governmental counterparts as well as the general public. Besides regular meetings, annual newsletters, leaflets, and videos were produced to bring and embed PrespaNet as a major environmental player at dinner table discussions;
- Established simple and effective monitoring protocols, setting regular bird monitoring and providing breeding population size data for the target species.
While transboundary communication is key to the conservation of the Prespa basin, local presence is essential in order to have activities on a transboundary and national level running smoothly and seamlessly – having a fully equipped and functioning local office in Resen since July 2018, with two staff (Daniela Zaec and Dragan Arsovski), provided the infrastructure needed to run a multifaceted conservation project. We can now confidently call it a hub of conservation through research and education. It is the place where local and international researchers, students, pupils, protected area (PA) staff, activists, and government officials come together, and where ideas and data are exchanged and compiled in order to “sustain the cultural and natural identity of Prespa and its people now and in the future”.
Photo credits: MES