A project to conserve a rare bird species in Lake Mikri Prespa in northern Greece has been named one of the top five environmental projects carried out in the European Union during 2007-2008, winning a ‘Best LIFE-Nature’ Projects award.

The conservation project was developed by the Society for the Protection of Prespa and WWF Hellas to improve the conservation status of the Dalmatian Pelican and the Pygmy Cormorant, but activities have also benefited directly at least 18 other species covered by the Birds Directive.

At a  press conference held at the village of Pyli in the Prespes Lake region last week organisers reported their project had increased the bird population around the lake.

This was attributed to the construction of a dam to regulate the water level, covering the irrigation needs of farmers and livestock breeders in the area while restoring some 100 hectares of wetlands that provided a habitat for large populations of fish and birds.

The Society for the Protection of Prespa will continue to fund the integrated management of the wetlands, according to society spokeswoman Marianna Vlassi, even though the programme was officially completed.

However she stressed the need for the Greek Government to continue providing financial support and specialised staff for the project.