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Albania to Enforce a Two-Year Ban on All Hunting

Feb 04, 2014 03:22 PM EST

Albania's government will impose a two-year moratorium on all forms of hunting in an effort to protect endangered species, according to media reports.

Earlier this year, Albania's environment minister Lefter Koka said the government was considering a two-year hunting ban after the numbers of wild animals in the European nation reportedly decreased significantly.

Albania says the move is drastic, but necessary to protect its animals, including endangered species such as brown bears and eagles.

"We have been forced to adopt strict measures to protect endangered species from illegal hunting," Koka said, according to an AFP report Tuesday.

Albania is a popular European hunting destination, the AFP reported, noting that hunters from Italy travel to Albania by the thousands largely because of the nation's relaxed and poorly enforced hunting regulations. Many of these foreign hunters participate in the activity illegally.

The hunting ban will be initiated later this month, the AFP reported.

"This is a drastic measure but necessary in order to stop the further degradation of wildlife, which is now at a critical minimum, and to impose controls on hunting activities that have been lacking for the last two decades," Kolka said in January.

Kolka blamed illegal hunting, the large number of hunting weapons in the country and the government's inability to collect fines as the reason 30-50 percent of the species allowed to be hunted in Albania have faced drastic population declines, according to the website Balkan Insight.

"There are 75,000 registered hunting rifles in Albania, as well as a large number of illegal automatic weapons," Koka said.

"Although the legal framework for the protection of wildlife has been improved over the last few years, the data unveils a situation that can only be restored through an emergency moratorium on hunting," Koka added.

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