The entire Lekbibaj municipality area going right up to the beech forest belt, has seen extensive traditional use by locals. This area acts as a kind of living museum of Albanian traditions and traditional land use. To this day, no modern methods of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, livestock raising, processing or marketing has impacted the lifestyle and traditional economy of the Regional Nature Park. The natural characteristics of this area are unfavorable to any form of industrial land use methods. Local agricultural fields, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens are very small and scattered, while forests are usually found in very steep or remote terrains, where water resources are scarce. Furthermore, the local farms all operate at small scales and have limited numbers of cattle.
Not only have traditional land use practices survived through the generations, but so have the native flora and fauna. The native flora and fauna of the Nikaj-Mertur area includes varying types of fruit trees, grape vines, vegetables, and animals.
Unique Species of Nikaj-Mertur RNP
Gjonmëme Pear (Pyrus sp.) - This pear is named after Nikaj-Mertur’s first farmer, Gjokë Mema. There is no evidence that this pear was brought from another region nor that it was created by grafting fruits from a neighboring country. The trees tend to grow quite high and the fruits usually come out in the beginning of July. The fruit is round and brown and as it ripens it turns yellow. These pears are a local delicacy and the locals have a special way of preserving them, so they can be eaten all year round.
Gastaran Grapes (Vitis vinifera) - This grape variety is rarely cultivated by local farmers, making it a rare find. The name gastaran means “glass” in the Nikaj-Mertur dialect and refers to the grape’s white and almost transparent color. This variety is usually found near ash trees and even though it is delicious, it often yields few grapes.
Cooking tip: roasting these grapes will bring out the sweetness in them!
Busha Cow, or lopa Busha – There are currently about 300 of this native breed in the Nikaj-Mertur Regional Nature Park. Busha cows can be easily identified from their short and compact bodies and their reddish-brown color. They have strong bones, short horns and the skin around their mouths is white. Busha cows weigh around 200-280kg and produce about 1200-1300 liters of milk per year.
Fun Fact: Busha cows tend to be fast runners and often attack other animals.