Grant Recipients Conference, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2016

Grant Recipients Conference, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2016

21 -22 March 2016

The Rufford Small Grants Conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina “Nature knows no boundaries” was held on 21st – 22nd March, 2016 in Banja Luka. This is one of many RSGF conferences held all over the World with main reason to share our experience during the projects and to connect RSGF winners. The RSG Conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina is also the first conference held in Europe. In Balkan region, including Turkey, Rufford Small Grants Foundation has supported more than 85 nature conservation projects from applicable countries. In year 2016 Banja Luka was host of seven countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Albania and Turkey) with 33 researchers participating the Rufford Small Grants Foundation conference.

On the first Balkan RSG conference among 33 participants we had an opportunity to hear experiences and development of the projects which started even 10 years ago. First Rufford Small Grants were surely the first step for further researches, development of ideas, fight with irrational government and conservation.

For the better overview, during the conference we divided all project into seven taxonomic groups: Plants, Fungi, Insects, Fish, Amphibian and Reptile, Birds and Mammals. Most projects were involving species of herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) while the insect group also had a large number of projects. There was just one project regarding fungi research in FYR Macedonia, which is surely alarming regarding the fungi biodiversity and important role in the ecosystem.

Main aim of this conference was to gather most of Rufford Small Grant candidates (past and current) working in the Balkan area and Turkey to improve networking amongst candidates and emphasize importance of networking in scientific world. We also achieved sharing of experience gathered throughout these projects and noted learnt lessons, both positive and negative. Many of the previous RSG beneficiaries have managed to also gather match funding from other sources or even to develop large scale projects on their subjects. During the lectures we all shared this knowledge and gave more perspective to the younger colleagues. Also, during the conference and all presentations, we were discussing:

1) How much has RSG helped to individuals to grow as conservation experts and what are other possibilities to help in their development (could additional training help; are they using principles of scientifically based conservation).
2) What are the important natural subjects that should be supported with future projects (most valuable and endangered species/habitats).

During the conference we held two round tables and discuss two important subjects:

1) Evidence based conservation, and
2) Social networking issues of the Balkan NGOs and all Conservations Groups.

Our main objectives during the conference were:

1) Sharing the results of the projects that were granted by RSGF.
2) Sharing our experiences during the projects, discussing all issues and new ideas, ups and downs during the realizations.
3) Advising new RSG winners.
4) Creating functioning network for successful implementation of many activities in order to preserve unique Balkan nature.
5) Sharing information and promoting all researches through public open lectures.

Examples of where Rufford Funding has enabled disproportionately large and tangible conservation impacts to be delivered.

The endangered butterflies of Serbia, two projects managed by Miloš Popović, which started in 2011, resulted with conducting several scientific researches for targeting the most threatened species of butterflies. They proposed conservation measures to managers of protected areas and to the government of Serbia.

While gorges in Serbia and Balkans represent refugium for numerous plant and animal species, Uroš Pantović with the project of biodiversity values of limestones gorges in Serbia managed to establish cooperation with local communities and environmental NGOs. Unfortunately just small number of gorges are protected under national legislation as nature reserves or are recognized as sites of international importance (IPAs, PBAs, and IBAs) but with data collected and future studies Uroš will influence the increase of protected areas and draw attention to their importance both with all people and with the government.

With two projects led by Emina Šunje for research and conservation of the endangered black salamander from Prenj Mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the team managed to identify the threatsof known localities, species distribution, ecology and biology while the population of Bosnian subspecies differ from species compared in Austria. IUCN status of this subspecies is not recognized and there is no legal status in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in near countries – Slovenia and Croatia, this species is protected on National level. The next step of conservation is to establish legal status of black salamander in Bosnia and other Balkan countries.

Examples of locally developed approaches to biodiversity management.

The endangered butterflies of Serbia, two projects managed by Miloš Popović, resulted with proposing conservation measures to managers of protected areas and to the government after mapping the distribution of threatened species. Also, they developed a new, growing network and database – Alciphron (, which enables everyone to assess nation Red List status for most of Serbian butterflies. Also, NGO HabiProt prepared simple and useful Butterfly field guide.

The projects of conservation of the Wood ants in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Adi Vesnić, has achieved a long-term monitoring of genus Formica with standardized protocols for monitoring programs.

English walnut is very important hardwood species in Albania. Gazmend Zeneli conducted project in 2005 and in 10 years they did restauration and conservation of habitats in agreement with FPUA of Martaneshi for an area of cca. 2 ha and Walnut Growers Association with the CFPA for the area of cca. 1 ha (300 seedlings in location named “Rrapsh i Hotit”). This was the beginning for the next steps of planning National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Albania.

Okan Ürker devoted his time to reviving oriental (Antolonian) sweetgum forest in southwestern Turkey. This tree species is in danger to become extinct and it is listed as Vulnerable category on IUCN Red list and protected by EUFORGEN on the scale of European Continent. During the project realization they tested effectiveness of “aroma therapy” of sweetgum forest and realized that there is a health improvement of people that live in the region and increase of tourism capacity where those forests are present. At the end of 2015 they founded a nature protection association on national scale titled NATURA for conservation of sweetgum forest. Next step of the project team is to establish The Sweetgum Working Group that aims to follow and apply their Sweetgum Action Plan in next period.

Ivan Svetozarević devoted his time for development of sustainable tourism in National Perk Đerdap in Serbia. In 2009 they had meetings with NP employees and local people for planning development strategy for sustainable tourism, promotion of natural values of NP Đerdap, development of CBD methodology for Tourism Management Planning and guidelines of Biodiversity and Tourism Development. These ideas were conducted due to ecological, social and economic objectives such as protection of natural values of PAs, education and capacity building of conservation needs, improvement of life conditions in local community, enabling local community to enjoy in PAs, new business opportunities, empowering local economy.

Examples of how has Rufford support helped early career conservationists achieve their goals.

Jelena Šeat, researching true bugs of halophytic habitats in Vojvodina, Serbia, facilitated in forming the team of young entomologists that started to work on several other projects on true bugs. Information and experience gained during the project also resulted with one master thesis.

Project of Karst Viper in Montenegro by Vernes Zagora helped him to start his early career and succeed in the field of herpetology through the project. Vernes managed to successfully finish his first Rufford project and he also applied and got the second grant in the meantime. He became member of Montenegrin Ecologists Society where he works on his specialisation mainly on the field of herpetofauna.

European common spadefoot toad was unknown for Bosnia and Herzegovina until 2014. With the project of researching common spadefoot toad, Ana Ćurić dedicated her time and love, and today she continued working in field of herpetology. Parallel with RSG project she got a student grant from CHS – Hyla in 2014.

Examples of how Rufford funding has helped support work on species and ecosystems that are traditionally difficult to fundraise for or the funding helped for baseline information.

Ants, like many other insects group, are not recognized and evaluated as species of concern in many countries on Balkan Peninsula. Adi Vesnić, through his project of Wood ants conservation, had an impact where two species of ants (Formica rufa and Formica polyctena) are, for now, the only recognized as useful by law of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rufford helped initiating researches of this neglected group.

While sand flies are neglected group of insects, Slavica Vaselek started a pilot project in 2013/2014 mainly to determine species composition and distribution, as well to prevent potential epidemic of leishmaniosis disease in Vojvodina, Serbia. This was the step forward for recognition of the potential problems and collaboration with local veterinarians all across Vojvodina region with whom they continue to exchange useful information regarding mentioned disease which will enable them to continue the researches in the following years.

Many conservation ideas of projects regarding flora and fauna of Bosnia and Herzegovina are neglected by ministry and potential national founds, and common spadefoot toad was not an exception. Thanks to RSGF, this secretive frog got a chance to introduce itself through work and voice of project leader, Ana Ćurić. While the species was unknown for B&H until 2014, project had several main goals which are important for further researches (promotion, defining distribution, education, etc.)

Examples of how Rufford funding has helped train a future generation of conservationists.

Research of sand flies in Serbia was neglected in the past 60 years, mostly due to small number of interested and educated students and scientists. Slavica Vaselek has set main goals at the start of the project: motivating young people (students, researchers) to start their work on sand flies and educate new staff. These goals were achieved and today Serbia has the first sand flies team, which is also the only sand flies team on Balkans.

The first project of combined research with education for cetacean conservation in Turkey by Aylin Akkaya Bas educated many volunteers that helped contribute the realisation of the project.

During the project “Paradox of metamorphosis of European common spadefoot toad in Bosnia and Herzegovina” whole team went through constant mutual learning and training guided with one of the best mentor in the region. Two students, Ana Ćurić and Adnan Zimić, continue working in the field of herpetology and further education with great ambitions and today, they are active in field of scientific research.

Examples of where Rufford grantees have published important biodiversity information or published of its project findings.

The endangered butterflies of Serbia, two projects managed by Miloš Popović, had a big impact of discovering of new species of butterflies in Serbia and region. Since 2011 they discovered six new species for the country, where Lycaena helle ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775) was the first finding for Balkan Peninsula. Many data from butterfly conservation projects were published:

Popović M, Milenković M (2012) First record of Anthocharis gruneri for Serbia (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Phegea 40:37–38.
Popović M, Durić M, Franeta F, et al (2014) First records of Lycaena helle ([Denis & Schiffermüller], 1775) for the Balkan Peninsula (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). SHILAP Revta lipid 42:287–294.
Popović M, Radaković M, Đurđević A, et al (2014) Distribution and threats of Phengaris teleius (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in Northern Serbia. Acta zool hung 60:173–183.
Popović M, Šašić M (2016) New findings of the butterfly Phengaris teleius at the border between Hungary and Serbia (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). Biodiversity Data Journal 4:e8078. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8078
Popović M, Radevski Đ, Miljević M, Đurić M (2014) First record of Pyrgus cinarae (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) in Serbia. Acta ent serb 19:45–51.

The project of sandflies diversity in Vojvodina, Serbia, of Slavica Vaselek enabled gathering new and important data for Vojvodina region, which were presented on: 1) 2015 at 2nd Conference organised by European Network for Neglected Vectors and Vector-Borne Diseases (EurNegVec), 2) Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, 3) Superiore de Sanita, Rome, Italy and 4) University of Novi Sad. Data will be published at Special Issue of journal Molecular and Cellular Probes.

Spiders of Deliblato Sands in Serbia, project of Gordana Grbić, resulted with findings of around 90 species from which 11 species are new records for Serbia. The results were presented on 28th European Congress of Arachnology 2014 in Torino and her poster was rewarded for the “Best student poster”.

Mitko Karadelev, the project leader for conservation of Fungi in Macedonia, published preliminary Red List of Fungi for FYR Macedonia with 67 species:
Karadelev, M. 2000: Preliminary Red List of Fungi in the Republic of Macedonia, Newsletter 10, European Council for the Conservation of Fungi.

Rufford has enabled a long term establishment of further researches and, today, Macedonian fungi kingdom counts 280 species of Ascomycota and 1970 species of Basidiomycota.

Katarina Ljubisavljević conducted a research of Dinaric rock lizard in Montenegro, which is endemic and relic species of the Dinaric mountains in the Western Balkans. The new record results were published in Ecologica Montenegrina paper:

Ljubisavljević, K., Polović, L., Vuksanović, S. & Iković, V. (2014) A new record of the Prokletije rock lizard, Dinarolacerta montenegrina (Squamata: Lacertidae) in Montenegro. Ecologica Montenegrina, 1, 201–203.

Long Beach has the best preserved psammophytic vegetation in Montenegro. Ksenija Medenica presented the project lead by Danijela Stešević, clearly highlighting anthropogenic issues concerning preservation of this site. Research results were presented on Institute for Plant Sciences in Graz (Austria), January 26th , 2016 and on 6th International Symposium of Ecologists of Montenegro, 15-18 October 2015, Ulcinj:

Stešević, et al.: Notes on synecology of Cutandia martima (L.) Benth, a rare psammophytic species along the Montenegrinian Coast (East Adriatic Coast).

Results of project of researching of European common spadefoot toad in Bosnia and Herzegovina were presented on 1st Balkan Herpetological Symposium within 12th Croatian Biological Congress with international participation, LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin, 18th – 23rd September, 2015:

A. Ćurić, A. Zimić, D. Jelić: New data and distribution of common spadefoot toad Pelobates fuscus (Laurenti, 1768) in Western Balkans.

Examples of how the information is translated to the management and conservation government authorities.

The endangered butterflies of Serbia project, managed by Miloš Popović, which started in 2011, resulted with conducting several scientific researches for targeting the most threatened species. They proposed conservation measures to managers of protected areas and to the government of Serbia. Reports were also sent to Institute for Nature Conservation, Ministry of Environment and Manager of protected areas in Serbia.

Through the project of conserving bats and habitats in agricultural environment in Serbia, Jelena Burazerović presented results and ideas to Governmental institutions (National Nature Protection Institute, Provincial Nature Protection Institute, Provincial Secretariat for Environmental Protection) with the main goal of developing agri-environment measures regarding bat conservation in Serbia.

Results of the project of Conservation of Fungi in Macedonia, led by Mitko Karadelev, had a big impact on Macedonian legislations:

- The List of Concerned and Threatened Fungi Species has officially been adopted as well as Rulebook for the proclamation of strictly protected (CR) and protected wild species (EN and VU).
- The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning produced a Permit on Export of Threatened and Protected Plants, Fungi and Animals and Parts of Them (EXIM).
- Order of Prohibition of Trading Autochthonous Fungi – Morels (Morchella, Verpa and Ptichoverpa).
- A Draft-Law was submitted on amendment and supplementation to the Law on Nature Conservation, incorporating their recommendations on undertaking measures for protection of rare and threatened fungi species and conservation of their habitats.
-All commercial species are included in the Customs tariff list (D4) for plant and fungal species with special treatment concerning export from the country controlled by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning of the Republic of Macedonia.

Project of conservation of Balkan Terrapin in Montenegro by Slađana Gvozdenović showed in results that most natural water habitats are under anthropogenic pressure and polluted. To conserve and protect the species, one of the research objectives were meetings with Environmental Protection Agency and Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism for preparation of management plans for freshwater habitats. This plan would serve as a handbook for the heritage protection of the environment in the process of Environmental Impact Assessment. The document will lead Agency for nature protection and the team will provide the necessary data for critical areas.

For full conference report please read attached:


Hotel Palace, Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina
44° 47' 8.6424" N, 17° 12' 23.3208" E
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