Save Croatian stork couple from poachers


This video says about itself:

Open letter to the President of LebanonMichel Aoun

26 April 2017

More here.

Dear President Aoun,

My name is Stjepan Vokić. People would describe me in a multitude of different ways, but all of them would agree with one thing – that I am a man who loves animals more than I love myself. And they would be right.

Twenty-five years ago, in my little village in my little homeland Croatia, I found a small stork with a wound in her wing – she had been shot by hunters. It was immediately evident that she would not be able to fly ever again which for a migratory bird means death.

I took her home with the hope of helping her in some way. I built a nest on the roof and a winter habitation in the garage so that she could survive the cold winter days. I named her Malena (The Little One).

Since Malena cannot fly, I have been her wings… I have caught fish for her, I have collected branches for her nest and helped her survive long winters. Over the years of friendship with Malena, I have learned numerous facts about storks and realized how magnificent those creatures are. Fifteen years ago, in the springtime, while returning from Africa, a male stork Klepetan landed in her nest. Ever since that day, he and Malena have been inseparable and up to this day, 59 young storks have set off into the world from their nest.

With the approach of autumn, Klepetan travels to south Africa to winter there, but at the end of March he returns back to his Malena in Croatia. This has been a regular occurrence for fifteen years already.

His 14000 kilometre journey teems with danger and these ten days while we wait for him impatiently are the most tense moments of my life.

However, when Klepetan appears in our back yard and flies to the bucket filled with fish I prepared for him, there is no money or wealth that could replace happiness and joy that fill my heart. I have three sons, and ever since Klepetan landed in Malena’s nest I accepted him as my fourth son.

The thought that one spring he may not return scares me more than anything. Although during his journey, storms, hunger and thirst threaten him, the most dangerous part of the flight is the 200 kilometre long route over your Lebanon. Every year around two million migratory birds get killed in this air route… some for fun, some for food, some for sale. This year Klepetan’s friend from the flock, Tesla, had an ill-fortune and got hurt. The stork Tesla was one of the two Croatian storks tracked by a GPS device for scientific research within the project “SOS Stork Croatia” which aims to determine the exact movement routes of the migratory birds of our area.

Just like the previous fifteen autumns, Klepetan will commence his journey to Africa and will once more fly over Lebanon. Unfortunately, I cannot go with him to protect him, but I am sending you this letter written with his feather, in order to implore you, to use the power your esteemed position brings and do everything you can in order to ensure that migratory bird protection laws remain in effect and that they are applied to their fullest extent. I am also sending you Klepetan’s feather because I believe that the feather is mightier than the sword.

I hope that you will use this particular feather, even before Klepetan flies to the south, to sign the law which will make a difference and save these wonderful creatures from merciless killing.

In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.

The story of my Klepetan is a proof to everyone that love simply knows no boundaries. I do not believe in fairy tales, but I do believe in goodness and I do believe that nature remembers and gives back everything, and more than anything, I believe in your humaneness and your benevolence and I thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Malena, Klepetan and Stjepan Vokić

From BirdLife:

9 May 2017

Migration: A long-distance love story

For the past 15 years, a lovestruck stork has faithfully returned from its South Africa wintering grounds to the same rooftop in Croatia, where he is dramatically reunited with his disabled amore. It’s a love story that has captivated a nation – but every time he departs, there are fears that he will not survive to see his beloved next spring.

You could set your clock to Klepetan. Over a million people watching via live stream already have. Every year, for the past 15 years, Klepetan, a male White Stork Ciconia ciconia returns to the same red-tiled rooftop in Brodski Varoš, a small Croatian village near the Bosnian border.

Except last year, Klepetan was late. Six days late. Normally, he returns on March 24th, give or take a day, but it was now March 30th, and his partner, Malena, was casting a lonely figure as she waited patiently for her beau to return.

But then, at 4:40pm, Klepetan dramatically swooped into view of the livefeed camera, reuniting the two lovebirds after months apart and sending the nation into rapturous joy.

But what is it about this particular pair of storks that resonates with the Croatian public above all others? Perhaps it’s because their relationship has to endure something that most lovers will be familiar with at one point or another in their lives – long distance.

Klepetan, you see, has to make the long, arduous 5,000 mile trip to South Africa alone every winter. Malena was illegally shot in 1993, and hasn’t flown properly since. Luckily for her, she was discovered at the side of the road by a school janitor, Stjepan Vokic, who treated her wounds and has looked after her ever since – building a makeshift nest on the roof of his house for her, and providing shelter for her during the cold winter months.

It was while she was enjoying the roof nest one day 15 years ago that she was spotted and wooed by Klepetan, and the pair have been inseparable since. (Most of the year, anyway.) Over the years, the lovers have reared dozens of chicks.

But come the winter, Klepetan flies south to Africa with the other storks, leaving his flightless partner behind. When the birds return in the spring, Vokic, and the hundreds of thousands of people glued to the livestream, face an anxious wait to see if Klepetan has survived his perilous journeys. Migratory birds brave numerous threats every time they embark on their epic travels – from storms to starvation, predators to power lines. But there’s one particular stretch of Klepetan’s journey that has his supporters particularly concerned – a 100 mile stretch that takes Klepetan over Lebanon.

The African-Eurasian Flyway – one of the most important migratory routes in the entire world – runs straight through Lebanon, and it is here that the journey ends for around 2.6 million birds as they are felled from the sky by irresponsible hunters.

As one of the larger migratory birds, storks are an obvious target for poachers, and this year the issue of Klepetan’s safety is particularly poignant, with the news that a male stork called Tesla – one of two Croat storks fitted with GPS trackers for research purposes – met his end in Lebanon this past April.

Vokic is so concerned about Klepetan’s welfare that he has taken the extraordinary step of writing a letter to the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun – using a pen fashioned from one of Klepetan’s own feathers – a symbolic gesture that the feather is mightier than the sword. The heartfelt letter … was delivered to Aoun in a box containing the very same feather – which Vokic urges Aoun should use to pen a law offering stronger protection for birds during the critical migration seasons.

An excerpt from the letter says: “In my country, there is a belief that storks bring children and that they bring new life. These two storks are my whole life. You do not have to believe in stories for little children, but you can believe in the fact that in Croatia every spring, via live stream camera, over a million people await Klepetan’s return and that the moment of his return brings happiness and joy reminding many of what love means and what it means to love.“

It follows a letter by BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita, addressed to Claudine Aoun Roukoz, the president’s special advisor, thanking Aoun for his commitment and urging for closer collaboration with the BirdLife Partnership on this matter.

Fortunately, there is every chance that Vokic’s emotional plea will tug at Aoun’s heartstrings – just last month, the Lebanese Prime Minister himself pledged to stop the annual slaughter in his country, stating that: “There should be a peace treaty between Man and the tree as well as Man and birds, because we continue to transgress upon them”.

But any action by Aoun needs to be swift and decisive and followed with action on the ground. It is only a matter of months until Klepetan will begin eyeing the long journey south once more. For the lovestruck stork who returns to his partner’s nest every year like clockwork, the clock is ticking.

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Wildlife in Croatia and Slovenia, video


This video about wildlife in Croatia and Slovenia was made in 2015 by Jasper Schiphof from the Netherlands.

Featuring hummingbird hawkmoth, butterflies, banded demoiselle, beetles, lizards, common sandpiper, redshank, and golden eagle.

Anne Frank unwelcome at Croatian far-right school


This 2015 video is called THE SHORT LIFE OF ANNE FRANK – Discovery History Biography War (full documentary).

From AFP news agency:

24 January 2017 – 17H59

Anger at Croatian school’s snub of Anne Frank exhibit

ZAGREB – A Croatian school came under fire Tuesday for refusing to display an exhibition on Jewish diarist Anne Frank because it included panels on crimes committed by the country’s World War II pro-Nazi regime.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre called for the school’s head to be dismissed, saying otherwise it signalled that pro-Nazi nostalgia was “perfectly legitimate” in modern-day Croatia.

The exhibition, prepared by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, was due to be displayed at a high school in the coastal town of Sibenik from Tuesday last week.

But the organisers withdrew the same day after the school’s director Josip Belamaric refused to allow six panels explaining the role of Croatia’s wartime Ustasha regime, saying the pro-Nazis were presented as “criminals” while their rival communists’ crimes were ignored.

The Ustasha persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma and anti-fascist Croatians.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, based in Los Angeles, has written to Croatia’s charge d’affaires in Tel Aviv in protest at Belamaric’s behaviour and seeking his immediate dismissal.

“A failure to do so will indicate that Ustasha nostalgia is perfectly legitimate in today’s Croatian school system,” wrote the head of the centre’s Israeli office, Efraim Zuroff.

The exhibition, due to be displayed until mid-February, had previously been presented in 23 Croatian towns without any problem, the organisers said.

Frank wrote “The Diary of a Young Girl” while hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic from June 1942 to August 1944. More than 30 million copies have been sold in 67 languages.

Frank died in Germany’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp early in 1945, aged 15, less than a year after the Nazis found her and her family members.

Croatia’s conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who came to power after a snap election in October, has pledged to move away from extremism.

The previous centre-right government was accused by critics of turning a blind eye to a far-right surge in the country, including nostalgia for a pro-Nazi past.

Croatian Jews are planning to boycott an official ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, accusing authorities of downplaying the Ustasha crimes.

After just four months in office, tensions inside the Croatian government coalition are mounting. Although the conservative Democratic Union (HDZ) and the right-wing liberal Most (Bridges) party are agreed on a right-wing programme, the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is in deep crisis: here.

Good bird news from the Mediterranean


This is a lesser kestrel video from Extremadura in Spain.

Translated from Marieke Dijksman of BirdLife in the Netherlands:

Less deadly traps for migratory birds in the Mediterranean

March 1, 2016 – For migratory birds the Mediterranean is a kind of minefield. They have to survive unscathed illegal hunting, power lines and wind turbines. BirdLife in the Netherlands is committed, together with their BirdLife partners, to provide protection for migratory birds in the Mediterranean. And that is more and more successful.

Successes in Croatia, Turkey and Morocco

Twice a year hundreds of millions of birds migrate along the African-Eurasian flyway. Along the way they must cross natural barriers such as the Mediterranean and the Sahara, as well as threats caused by human activity. On top of that there is the loss of key roosting areas and problems caused by climate change. However, recently there have been achieved good protection results with the project Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean. Like in Croatia, Turkey and Morocco.

Saving lesser kestrels in Croatia

The lesser kestrel seemed to be extinct in Croatia. Until a small colony was discovered near the island of Rab in 2010. Exactly on the main feeding grounds of the falcons, the government wanted to build a new airport. By direct action of BirdLife Partner BIOM the lesser kestrel was placed on the Croatian Red List and airport plans were abandoned. Important not only for the lesser kestrel, but also for all Croatian birds, because it is the first time a negative impact on birds could not only be shown, but actually led to action. An important and welcome precedent in Croatia.

Protection of sociable lapwings in Turkey

The sociable lapwing is a critically endangered bird. Worldwide there are fewer than 6,000 pairs. From the breeding grounds in Kazakhstan sociable lapwings migrate through Turkey to the main southerly wintering areas. Doa Dernegi, our BirdLife Partner in Turkey, has addressed illegal hunting in the nature reserve Ceylanpnar, one of the most important resting areas of the species. A team of volunteer wardens now watches over the area and it is very successful. Illegal hunting has fallen sharply. Biggest success: the proclamation of a hunting-free zone in Ceylanpnar at the beginning of the hunting season 2015-2016. Sociable lapwings can safely pass through Turkey!

Rehabilitation of salt pans in Morocco

Two successes of GREPOM, the BirdLife partner of our Society in Morocco. GREPOM managed to prevent the construction of a wind farm in the Rif Mountains. The planned wind farm was right on a major route for migratory birds and especially for many raptors it would have become fatal.

GREPOM could convince the local government of Larache, a port city in northern Morocco, to restore the Loukkos salt pans. Which constitute an important stopover for migratory birds and a habitat for waders.

Stopping bird killing in the Mediterranean. By Claire Thompson, 4 Nov 2016: here.

The Mediterranean Basin: together for nature. By Shaun Hurrell, 11 Jan 2017: here.

Anti-refugee barbed wire kills wildlife


This video from Australia says about itself:

Tawny Frogmouth barbed wire danger

12 April 2011

Tasmania’s Tawny Frogmouths and other native species are getting caught and injured in barbed wire fences, Bonorong Wildlife Park reports.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

The new anti-refugee fences of Europe are killing wild animals

By Adam Taylor, December 18 2015

This year, a number of European countries did something that only a few years earlier would have been unthinkable: They built fences on their borders in a bid to prevent large groups of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa entering their countries.

These fences may have provided a temporary solution for the countries that put them up, although in most cases the flow of refugees and migrants was only diverted to their neighbors. The barriers are having other, unintended consequences, however: According to a letter filed to the European Commission by the government of Croatia, wild animals are being killed by the fence constructed by its E.U. neighbor Slovenia.

Croatia’s letter argues that Slovenia’s barbed-wire fence is obstructing the migration of animals, violating European legislation about the conservation of natural habitats. According to the Associated Press, deer are the animal most commonly getting caught in the fences, and hunters have been documenting the dead animals they find on the border with social media.

The New Scientist reports that while the death of deer is gaining attention, experts are perhaps more concerned about the effects of the fences on migrating or roaming animals who already have small and endangered populations. Magda Sindicic, a researcher at the University of Zagreb who helped pen the letter from Croatia, told the publication that the effect on the remaining population of the Dinaric lynx could be dramatic.

Lynx use habitats in both countries and cross the border daily to search for food and partners to mate,” Sindicic told the New Scientist. “The population is primarily endangered through inbreeding, so mating and producing fertile offspring is already a challenge for this population, and this fence will make it even harder as it will stop animals from migrating freely across the border.”

Among the other species that could be hurt by the fence are wolves and bears, Sindicic explained. And while Croatia’s complaint focuses on the fence along its border with Slovenia, dead animals have also been documented on the fence built by Hungary along its border with Croatia. The potential for problems has been known for a while, with little action taken so far: In June, Hungarian newspapers reported that the environmental concerns about a fence being built on the Hungarian-Serbian border could lead to the construction being halted, but the fence was completed anyway.

Hungarian regime insults Croatia for ‘insufficient’ anti-refugee xenophobia


This video says about itself:

Refugees break through newly-built border fence in Hungary

12 September 2015

A refugee family breaks through a hole in the wire fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia. Report by Sarah Kerr.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Hungary sends arrested Croat police officers back

Today, 09:41

Hungary has returned to their own country 36 Croatian police officers who were arrested yesterday for accompanying refugees in Hungary. The Croats were arrested because they were armed and because they had brought refugees ‘illegally’ into Hungary.

Also the driver of the train bringing more than a thousand refugees on their way to Austria was arrested.

Agreed

The majority of the approximately 14,000 refugees who yesterday were left by Croatia at the border with Hungary, has arrived in Austria, says correspondent Marcel van der Steen from Croatia. Last night the first buses with refugees arrived in Austria.

Hungary on Monday closed its borders to refugees, but now they seem to work with Croatia to make travel for the continued flow of asylum seekers to Austria possible. Croatia speaks of a coordinated approach with Hungary, where people at the Croatian border may change from Croatian buses to Hungarian buses and are brought directly to Austria.

But the Hungarian authorities call that a “lie” and announce that they will vote against Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area.

The fuss about the refugee train with Croatian supervisors should be seen according to Van der Steen as a political statement by Budapest underscoring their harsh clampdown on the refugee crisis.

A woman and child use a blanket to keep warm as refugees gather on the tracks at the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia. Photograph: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Slovenian police said on Saturday that 1,287 had arrived as of midnight Friday, of which 483 were from Afghanistan, 470 from Syria and 126 from Iraq: here.

Good refugee news, from The Bike Comes First:

Marco Polo Cycling Team to relaunch as a team for refugees

Sep 17, 2015

The Marco Polo Cycling Team issued a press release today stating their intention to start racing again next year, with a team comprised of refugees, mainly from Eritrea.

NEW EU figures on asylum have spectacularly exploded the lies perpetuated by the Tories and the right-wing media that Britain is being besieged by “swarms” of refugees. Statistics published yesterday by the EU data agency Eurostat show that Britain received just one in 30 of the total number of the asylum claims made by new applicants in EU countries between April and June: here.

Refugees’ plight continues


Hungary, barbed wire and refugees

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

More than 2,000 refugees stranded at Croatian border town

Train that was due to take people west from first town after Serbian border is sitting at station, as Croatia also closes all but one of its road border crossings

Patrick Kingsley in Tovarnik

Friday 18 September 2015 08.07 BST

More than 2,000 refugees were left stranded overnight in a border town near Croatia’s border with Serbia, as Slovenia prevented hundreds of others from leaving north-west Croatia, leading to fears that the latest refugee route into the European Union may turn out to be a dead-end.

Early on Friday morning Croatia also closed seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia after complaining of being overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 11,000 migrants and refugees.

Refugees began entering Croatia in large numbers on Wednesday, after Hungary closed its borders. Croatia’s prime minister initially said his country was ready to provide a safe passage for people trying to reach Slovenia, and the stability of northern Europe beyond.

But within hours it became clear that Croatia had underestimated the scale of the challenge it had taken on, failing to provide enough transport to speed thousands of newcomers away from Serbia and towards Slovenia. A logjam stretching west to east across northern Croatia was created after Slovenia blocked the onwards transit of refugees, stopping about 150 people from crossing in by train. On Thursday, Slovenia had said it was ready to provide immediate shelter and humanitarian care for 5,000 refugees.

At least 2,000 people were stuck in Tovarnik, the first Croatian town after the border with Serbia. While a specially commissioned train arrived to pick many of them up at about midnight, the train was still waiting in the station at 7am, its 10 carriages packed with about 1,000 restless refugees largely from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 1,000 others were left sleeping on the station platforms, and in the streets of Tovarnik, a small and sleepy rural town that has no hotels. Small children slept on cold stone slabs, and a baby was placed inside a small suitcase to keep it warm. …

As Croatia considered whether to close its border with Serbia entirely, Hungary began building a fence and deploying hundreds of soldiers and police on its border with Croatia. Its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said the fence would be finished on the 26 miles (41km) stretch of the border not divided by a river by the end of Friday.

Hundreds more refugees arrived at Tovarnik during the night, after being bussed straight from Macedonia to the Croatian border by the Serbian government. Several were not quite sure where they were. “What’s the name of this country?” asked Ali Sadoun, a 40-year-old baker who fled Iraq after receiving a death threat from the militia.

Sitting next to the train-tracks at 4am, one of the night-time arrivals, Syrian undergraduate Zahraa Daoud, spoke out at yet another obstacle being placed in her path. “They don’t want us to pass,” said Daoud, who is travelling with her mother. “Why? We are humans. We are Syrians, and there is a war in our country that even we don’t really understand.”

Zahraa Daoud

But despite her frustration, Daoud also said that she was determined to carry on, whatever the challenges Europe places in front of her – a view often expressed by the protagonists of the continent’s biggest wave of mass-migration since the second world war.

“I don’t have anything to lose, so I fear nothing,” said Daoud, a 23-year-old literature student who asked to be described as from the Ismaili faith.

Daoud added: “I’ve been thinking about leaving for two years. But for a long time I thought: there is still hope [of peace], I will wait. But when you leave home every day and you don’t know whether you’ll see your mum again at night, because you might be killed by a bomb or taken [by a militia], you have to run. So I will not go back. I will run, run, run. Even if they will not allow me to, I will keep on running.”

This video says about itself

Refugees enraged at inhumane treatment as Croatia prepares to close border

18 September 2015

Many of the people hoping to travel through Croatia have instead been taken to camps, on buses provided by the Croatian authorities. And as Mohammed Jamjoom reports from Beli Manastir, for some it has been a frustrating journey.

12 pictures that capture the chaos of Europe’s refugee crisis: here.

TURKEY HAS SPENT ALMOST $8 BILLION ON REFUGEES A Turkish deputy prime minister said the country, which has an “open-door policy” for Syrian refugees, has spent $7.6 billion on over 2.2 million refugees. [Reuters]