In a groundbreaking move, Albania has announced a two-year ban on all hunting as part of an effort to save the country's endangered species. The ban, which will go into effect later this month, is the first of its kind, says AFP.
Environment Minister Lefter Koka said the ban was necessary to protect species whose numbers had fallen dramatically after two decades of rampant hunting. The environment ministry says brown bears and eagles are now seriously endangered in mountainous areas of Albania. The number of pheasants and wild quail have also fallen dramatically.
"We have been forced to adopt strict measures to protect endangered species from illegal hunting," Koka said.
Kolka said that only an "emergency moratorium" could protect wildlife in Albania, whose flag portrays a double-headed eagle.
"This is a drastic measure but necessary in order to stop the further degradation of wildlife, which is now at a critical minimum, and to impose controls on hunting activities that have been lacking for the last two decades," Kolka said in January, when the ban was being considered. "There are 75,000 registered hunting rifles in Albania, as well as a large number of illegal automatic weapons."
Albania has long been a popular hunting destination -- until now, its regulations on the activity have been lax. But the country is home to spectacular wildlife -- a camera trap project conducted last year by the IUCN in in the country's Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park revealed countless animals living in the protected area.