LIFE Project Cover Photo

Saving Pelecanus crispus in the Danube Delta

Reference: LIFE05 NAT/RO/000169 | Acronym: Pelecanus crispus Romania



Within its entire geographical range, from Balkans to Mongolia, the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (2004). Its present total breeding population is estimated at 4 000 to 5 000 breeding pairs. The European population of the Dalmatian pelican is crucial for the survival of the species. The two major subpopulations of 700 pairs in Greece and about 400 pairs in Romania are the last remaining strongholds of the species outside the former Soviet Union. In Romania, the Dalmatian pelican breeds in five colonies, all located within the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The population of the Danube Delta targeted by the project represents 33.5-36.5% of the European population outside the former Soviet Union. The main threats to the species at its breeding sites are disturbances and degradation of its habitats.


The main objective of this project was to protect and increase the breeding population of the Dalmatian pelican (Pelicanus crispus) in the Danube delta. The project aimed to increase the number of breeding pairs by 27% so that the population in 2009 would be around 500 pairs.

Specific conservation measures aimed to improve the breeding conditions by ensuring an adequate protection of the breeding sites and eliminating human disturbances and mortality caused by anglers and hunters. Foreseen activities that would address this aim included clear delineation of breeding sites, the use of warning signs, and the training of wardens to deal with illegal intruders. Furthermore, authorities would be urged to regulate fishing and hunting in order to prevent unintentional killings. Power lines would be marked to eliminate mortality due to collision. With the aim of securing the habitats and creating larger breeding areas, the shoreline of the natural islands would be consolidated and artificial structures were planned. Ground predation would be reduced by limiting the access of predators to the sites.

All the six breeding areas were intended to be proposed as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). A comprehensive monitoring programme aimed to provide information on breeding requirements, population size, movements of the Dalmatian pelican, and to monitor the effects of the implemented conservation measures. Furthermore, the species' requirements with regard to water quality and the risk of their contamination with heavy metals would be studied.


The conservation actions of the project contributed directly to the protection of Dalmatian pelican colonies. Constructing additional nests and increasing breeding success has improved the long-term prospects of the bird species. The project achieved the following beneficial outcomes: consolidation of natural islands (Ceaplace); increased area for breeding (Ceaplace); management of reed to ensure larger surface areas (Ceaplace); additional roosting areas (Ceaplace), permanent patrolling and monitoring; and the denial of access to colonies (Rosca–Buhiova, Ceaplace and Lejai).

Specific results of the project include:

  • Stabilised breeding population in three sites, and increased in two (Rosca-Buhaiova and Ceaplace) (In 2009 the highest number of breeding pairs was recorded in the last 10 years on the Ceaplace Island, with an increase of 28% on population size before to the project);
  • Designation of all the six breeding sites as Natura 2000 network SPAs;
  • Creation of additional breeding units through the installation of artificial structures (underwater wood protection wall, 350 m2 fix platform, mobile platforms, fence and warning signs, 150 markers on electric lines). A total of 47 of the planned 50 units had been constructed at the project end;
  • Increase in number of breeding pairs on island, with no human disturbance to the colonies registered and no causalities after the markers installation recorded.
  • Due to political, legislative and institutional (Ministry of Environment) instability in Romania, the approval of the main strategic documents for future conservation management is still pending. These included a management plan, designation of the sites as core areas within the Danube Delta and a national action plan. However, the knowledge of wardens and the general public was improved through awareness activities and the production of dissemination materials.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).

    In 2018, an ex-post visit was carried out by the external monitoring team, 9 years after the project’s completion. This visit confirmed that the project actions had improved breeding conditions for Dalmatian pelican by protecting five key sites in the Danube Delta and increasing the protected surface area available for breeding. The National Action Plan was approved by the state authorities after the end of the project (2010), while the management indications were included in the Delta Management Plan that was approved in 2015. Along with the inclusion of two further Dalmatian pelican colonies in the core protection areas of the Delta and the declaration of all Delta colonies and other relevant sites along the Danube as SPAs, the project set the favourable background for the conservation of the species in Romania. The ex-post visit found that the training for Delta wardens established during the project led to regular patrols and monitoring of the pelican colonies. Project information boards continue to help raise awareness of local people and key stakeholder groups; while regular meetings, seminars, publications are seen as important outcomes of the project. The Delta Administration has allocated minimal funds from government sources for the continuation of some of the conservation measures applied during the project. It also obtained sponsorship from a private company after the project, to repair the consolidation works and the platforms erected at Ceaplace Island. The Romanian Ornithological Society, with other European partners, are developing another LIFE project focused on the Dalmatian pelican, which in 2018 was not yet submitted.


    Reference: LIFE05 NAT/RO/000169
    Acronym: Pelecanus crispus Romania
    Start Date: 01/11/2005
    End Date: 30/09/2009
    Total Budget: 656,928 €
    EU Contribution: 492,696 €
    Project Location: Danube Delta


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority
    Legal Status: PUBLIC
    Address: Portului, 34A, 820243, Tulcea, Romania
    Contact Person: Ciprian FANTANA
    Tel: +40 21 318 47 01

    LIFE Project Map



    • Birds


    • monitoring
    • protected area
    • endangered species


    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)


    • Pelecanus crispus


    Name Type
    Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority Coordinator
    Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR), Romania Participant
    Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), UK Participant