Did you know that it’s children who bring storks, and not the other way round? The popular legend actually reversed cause and effect – in the past, especially in the Nordic countries, storks tended to nest on the warmest chimneys, which were often in houses where the presence of a newborn baby meant keeping the place warmer.
Now a new chapter is being written in the story of this link between humans and leggy waders, one involving the protection of biodiversity, made possible by technology and the assistance provided by Enel.
In Romania white storks are iconic birds, and every spring people celebrate their arrival. Our Group supports a project sponsored by the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR), an NGO specialised in monitoring and protecting wild birds and their habitats. The project, which was developed by SOR with the support of Enel Romania, is designed to carry out regular censuses in order to correctly assess the population of white storks in Romania. It also gathers data about the location of stork nests and takes measures to protect both the birds and the electrical grids. For this reason, SOR launched a mobile app called “Uite Barza!” (“Look, a stork!”). It is available to all smartphone users, company volunteers and members of the general public who want to get involved in the conservation of these bird species.
The “Uite Barza!” app is a successful example of citizen science, where the general public can make an active contribution to scientific knowledge and, as in this case, help protect biodiversity.
Based on the information received, Enel electricity distribution companies in Romania will be able to protect both breeding pairs and the electrical grid by providing support for the nests and power line insulators. This will also directly benefit the consumers, as hopefully there will be less need for intervention on the power lines to mend the damage caused by the presence of the birds.
The model fits perfectly with our Open Power philosophy – open to the outside, accepting contributions from everyone.
“It sends another clear signal that citizen science programmes are a very welcome innovation. We find the locations of new nests and where there have been sightings of storks. The number of observers and nests is growing every year. It’s not surprising, as the white stork is the most well-known bird in our country. We’re also enthusiastic about both the data we obtain in this way and the new nests we’ve observed”
Ovidiu Bufnilă, Head of Communications, Romanian Ornithological Society
A birdwatching heaven in the city
The success of initiatives protecting storks encouraged us to launch another project in Romania in support of bird life. Bucharest’s Parcul Natural Văcărești is the country’s largest urban nature reserve. It covers 184 hectares (making it larger than Hyde Park in London) and is home to a rich ecosystem. Together with the “Parcul Natural Văcărești” association, the NGO that manages the park, we have promoted research and monitoring of the bird species living and visiting there, installed artificial nests and winter feeding stations, and supported activities that fight poaching.
We have also created two birdwatching trails in the park, with spotting hides and towers. Our efforts have met with an excellent response – over 10,000 people have joined our guided visits, including over 1,000 in a single day for the largest ornithological event in the country’s history. In this way the protected areas have also become a communications instrument for promoting the culture of biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
For biodiversity across the board
Our initiatives for the bird life of Romania are just some of the most recent examples of our commitment to biodiversity. Our policy is in line with two of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs – 14 (“life below water”) and 15 (“life on land”). We act on our commitment to biodiversity in many of the countries we operate in, from Chile and Russia to South Africa, the USA, Italy and Guatemala. We have launched over 150 projects in all, involving a total of around two million hectares of protected areas, often located around our industrial installations, in order to enhance their environmental sustainability.
In Romania we have also helped plant 22,000 oak trees in the unspoilt area of the forest of Comana, one of the country’s largest wetlands. The artificial lake we created at As Pontes, in Galicia, Spain, has won some important accolades, including the Fondena prize awarded by the King of Spain. In the same part of the world we use drones to locate Iberian lynx and monitor their movements, as the species native to this area is under threat of extinction.
The ecosystems we help safeguard in Latin America range from the coldest to the warmest regions, with initiatives such as repopulating the flora and fauna in the Mexican desert of Coahuila, monitoring and protecting wild felines in Brazil, studying marine biology in the Comau fjord in Chile and setting up a protected dry forest area and rescuing a mangrove lagoon in Colombia.
Our many projects in Italy include technological initiatives such as the fish ladders at Isola Serafini (Serafini Island) on the River Po and the eel ladder at Casteldoria in Sardinia.
The Priolo Gargallo wetlands in Sicily are the site of one of our flamingo breeding projects, and they have also become a tourist attraction. In the Emilia region we are working to protect hawk nests, and in Tuscany and Lombardy we are helping safeguard the nests of the white stork: these birds are also the stuff of legend in Italy. Protecting biodiversity can combine tangible reality with all the beauty of a fairy-tale.