The Museum of Natural Sciences in Tirana
One of the most exceptional museums you should visit in Albania is the Museum of Natural Sciences in Tirana. This museum has an extraordinary collection of our country’s rich biodiversity, where about 3000 specimens are exhibited, i.e., unique species, and a scientific research fund of 100,000 species of Albanian fauna.
The Museum of Natural Sciences “Sabiha Kasimati” (MSHN) was established in 1948 as part of the former Institute of Sciences. With the creation of the University of Tirana in 1957, this museum came under the jurisdiction of the Faculty of Natural Sciences as part of the Department of Zoology. In 2010, together with the National Herbarium and the Botanical Garden, it became part of the Flora and Fauna Research Center of the Faculty of Natural Sciences.
Why is important
The Mediterranean is one of the wealthiest fauna areas in the world, and Albania has been an oasis of rare species carefully collected by Albanian researchers, especially during the communist period. Currently, Albania has 30% of the fauna in all of Europe. Still, Albania has lost more of its fauna than any other European country due to demographic changes, erosion, deforestation, uncontrolled land use, fishing, illegal hunting, etc. However, in this museum, you will find an extraordinary wealth of species living on our land or waters.
Inventory of fauna in the museum: Entomofauna (Insects), Herpetofauna (Amphibians and Reptiles), Ornitofauna (Birds), Mammalofauna (Mammals), Macrobentofauna (Molluscs, Crustaceans)
Insects represent the most significant number of exhibited fauna on the Museum premises, with 217 species. You will find representatives from all groups of reptiles on display. During your visit to the amphibian and reptile pavilion, what will immediately catch your attention is the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelis coriacea), which is considered the most giant turtle in the world (with a length of up to 1.8 m and a weight of about 700 kg). This turtle is very rare for our waters because it is an oceanic type, and until today, only three individuals have been caught in our country (one in 1963 in Shengjin, exhibited in our museum, and two others in the Drin Bay caught respectively one in August 2016 and the other after a year in August 2017). On display, you will also find the different two types of sea turtles found in our waters: the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), which is considered the most common species in our waters, and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), which is much rarer than the first. All species of sea turtles have a particular conservation interest because they are considered globally endangered.
Birds have exhibited specimens from 201 species (57% of Albania’s complete list of birds). Several 25 species of birds of prey are exposed, of which 18 species are diurnal predators, and seven are nocturnal predators. In the sector of birds of prey, there are specimens of jackals, eagles, vultures, hawks, kestrels, falcons, owls, and owls. Among these species, you can see The cuckoo horse, a globally rare species that still nests in our country, although the population of this species has suffered a dramatic decline over the last 25 years, being reduced to only ten pairs.
The vulture, once a common nesting species in the country, has now disappeared as a nesting species and only a stray individual can be found very rarely in our country. The mountain eagle or the flag eagle is a species for which the last years’ data show that the population has suffered an extraordinary decline.
Of the 25 species, 23 are part of the red list of the fauna of Albania and are strictly protected by law. A large variety of waterfowl species (84 species) are exhibited in this museum. In the waterfowl sector, there are specimens of pelicans, cormorants, swans, storks, herons, geese, ducks, terns, gulls, sea swallows, terns, and many kinds of terns. Among these types, you have the opportunity to see:
The curly pelican is the giant bird in Albania, with a wingspan of up to 320 cm. In Albania, it nests only in the Divjakë-Karavasta National Park, in a colony of 50 pairs. The population of this type in our country is critically endangered, while globally, it is close to threat.
Mammals are represented in our museum by 44 species and 52 individuals, of which three belong to the order of Cetacea (Aquatic Mammals): 1. Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus); 2—common bottlenose dolphin (Delphinus delphis); 3. The Mediterranean seal (Monachus monachus) is considered a Critically Endangered (CR) species according to the IUCN.
Sperm whale – the most extraordinary feature of the Museum
During your visit to the mammal pavilion in the museum, what will attract your attention is the skeleton of the whale or sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), which is exposed at the museum’s entrance, with a length of 8 m. According to the data we have, the sperm whale was caught in 1958 on the coast of Durrës together with seven other individuals, where it is thought that they got stuck in the shallows. It was supposed to have been a family of 8 members who were chased by a prey or a fishing boat, and then it led them to the shallow waters of the Adriatic, from where they could not return to the seas. Another reason is that the whales may have confused the way by following the direction of the currents and were accidentally introduced from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea and then into the Adriatic.
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