Conservation of the Dalmatian pelican: training the local guides

Photo credits: Jari Peltomäki/ Straffan Widstrand

Hugging the Black sea coast, the Danube Delta has a rich diverse natural offering and it is home to massive amounts of waterbirds of all kinds. The Dalmatian pelican is a present inhabitant of the area. 

This bird is a globally threatened species and extremely vulnerable across its entire geographical range. For this reason, the Pelican Way of Life project has been created in partnership with Rewilding Europe. This project focuses on the conservation of the Dalmatian pelican along the Black-Sea Mediterranean and aims to reduce the threats to the birds and improve their habitat. As part of the project, a 3-day course will be provided to local guides and boatmen of Danube Delta in October 2020.

The European Safari Company had the opportunity to interview Simon Collier, who will be leading the training and has extensive experience in mentoring guides, as well as over ten years of working with wildlife in nature. He shared some insights to the course and its importance for the protection of this species and the impacts on local tourism with us.


Can you tell us a little bit about the course? The course is designed to give boatmen and guides an insight into the life of Pelicans, there importance and relevance within the area and the real value they have if well protected and valued.

The boatmen will learn not only about the pelicans themselves but also how to approach them safely, without impacting them and then being able to deliver a really sensitive experience for guests.

It is of huge importance that the boatmen understand the impact they have on the pelicans when they are moving around in their boats.

Who can attend the course? Only people from the area? The focus is on boatmen from the area, and possible guides who work in the area.

Creating community pride and protection of the wildlife is very important and along with the Rewilding Europe team leaders we will be carefully selecting the attendees.

What is the goal of the course? I hope to give local boatman a sense of pride having these amazing birds in the area, and to show them the value of looking after them through sensitivity, respect, and their guide training. 

What does this mean for nature tourism in the area? Upskilling and developing local guides will help deliver a better and more diverse tourism experience – this leads to tourism growth in the region and assists in the local economy. Ultimately a strong tourism experience based on wildlife and nature leads to a long term local custodianship – local communities protecting nature and its wildlife for the long term.

Why do you think ecotourism can impact the species in a positive way? When developed carefully and in the right way, ecotourism can be a strong advocate for wildlife and nature protection – its very important for local communities to understand the potential value of tourism linked to the pelicans.

What can tourists do during their stay in the area to not damage the species? Choosing well trained and reputable guides and tourism companies is vital – linked with a conservation organization like Rewilding Europe. Don’t partake in activities that you know will have a negative impact, and provide valuable feedback to help local tourism partners grow.

How can tourists contribute to the conservation of the species and wildlife in general? Support a cause, spread the word and make sure your travels are compensated to mitigate your own impacts. Take in the local cultures and most of all tell your friends to come and visit


Anything you want to add or think it’s important to share: Understanding the local context and way of life is vital to getting to grips with the challenges of protecting and preserving wildlife like the pelicans. It is easy to pass judgment, but we need to provide long term support and training to assist people through the process of change.