Living Zoology went for a short trip to Croatia and found both. Nose-horned viper is a front-fanged snake and it was the first venomous snake we found together. That’s why it is in our logo. Malpolon is a rear-fanged species and we found it for the first time during this trip.
The streets of Zagreb after 5.3 magnitude earthquake hits Croatian capital | AFP
An earthquake of magnitude 5.3 hit the Croatian capital Zagreb, causing extensive damage in the city centre and scenes of panic. A 15-year-old boy was reportedly killed in the rubble of a badly damaged building, according to media reports. The epicentre of the tremor was located 7 km north of Zagreb. IMAGES of streets in Zagreb.
Every year, in the middle of Croatia, it’s the same story: after the annual snowmelt, a huge flood wave spills out of the Alps toward Zagreb and Belgrade. This leads to an increase in the River Sava’s water levels of some ten meters. The contents of more than ten billion bathtubs floods an area the size of Lake Constance, often for months on end, yet still the Croatian and Serbian capital is spared a flood disaster.
One of the reasons for this is the fact that the Sava is able to flow unhindered. The annual floods not only create a natural retention reservoir for flood control: alongside the Sava lies a natural paradise, unique in Central Europe.
In the species-rich, alluvial flood forests of the last major meadow landscapes of the continent, enormous predatory fish like the catfish lie in wait for prey. The fertile floodplains of the Sava are an important resting place for more than 240 bird species, including hoopoe, great crested grebe, little egret, common snipe and pied avocet.
Old, domestic livestock breeds like the Turopolje pig and Posavina horse spend almost the entire year in the floodplains. They appreciate the alluvial meadows, keep puddles and mudholes open whilst wallowing and, as living lawnmowers, they ensure that the moist meadows aren’t transformed into dense oak forests. Thanks to this traditional pasture farming, more than 700 pairs of white stork alone breed in the Lonjsko Polje National Park. The Sava Floodplains allow us to glance into the past of our continent and at the same time, illustrate just how flood protection for major towns can be perfected.
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.
“They hit us with black sticks. On my back, my legs and above my eye, they brought us back to the border.”
Aziz, 23, is sitting on his bed in a Serbian reception center, near the Croatian border. He is from Afghanistan and traveled to Serbia through Turkey and Bulgaria. Here he has been for eight months. Aziz thinks about that morning about a month ago. It was the second time he tried to cross the border to Croatia illegally.
Usually, the violence is against the mobile phones which … refugees use to find their way to the border. Police officers kick or hit the phones to destroy them. But every now and then they are unlucky, says Aziz. Then the people will be maltreated too.
“They said they were private police. They drove in black cars and did not wear uniforms.” Above the eye, the wound has now become a scar. He had a headache for a few days. But after a week he felt better and was again in the woods at the border. …
Almost everyone has a story about the Croatian police. Many have already been maltreated by the Hungarian police when they tried to cross the border. A man shows a deep wound on his lower leg, caused by a stick. Another one had a broken finger and lost a tooth by a fist on his face.
MSF [Doctors Without Borders] in Serbia, which reports regularly on violence against migrants on the Balkan route, has by now treated hundreds of people injured during their flight. “The majority of people who come to us declare that they met with police violence”, said Andrea Constante of MSF. He emphasizes that it is impossible to check the stories of migrants and refugees, but that the injuries they see speak for themselves. “We see blue spots and wounds caused by sticks, fists and kicks.”
Family tablet broken
Families with children who tried to cross have also been subjected to violence, according to a statement from an Afghan woman who wants to remain anonymous. Eight times she walked across with her husband and three young children. They slept in the jungle and walked for a couple of days. Each time they were sent back by the police to the Serbian border with the message: do not come back. This also happened after they said they wanted to apply for asylum in the EU country Croatia.
The last time, two months ago, it went wrong, she tells. “They hit my husband with a piece of wood, grabbed me by the arm and pushed my children.” Her husband could not walk well from the pain for a few days. On her upper arm were bruises. The tablet containing all family photos and important documents was thrown into the ground, breaking it.
She says she will try again soon. “We are desperate”, says the woman. “In Afghanistan, I was a teacher, now I’m in a small room all day long thinking about the future of my children. Three years we’re already on our way, what else can we do?” …
MSF goes further in criticizing Croatia: the country is said to be guilty of human rights violations, because in many cases no asylum application is heard. MSF spokesman Constante calls it worrying that people are denied that basic right. Other human rights organizations also hate this situation. …
Durdana Zazai, a 12-year-old girl from Afghanistan, was also sent back when she applied with family members for asylum in Croatia. Zazai has polio and can not walk anymore. Her nephew carried her back on his back through the woods. When she met the Croatian police, she was told they would be taken to Zagreb. Instead, the police returned them to the Serbian border, says cousin Younis.
Now Durdana is in a shelter in Serbia. She is not treated for polio there. Her parents are in Germany. “We have come to Europe for her treatment,” says Younis. “We are on a list to go to Germany legally, but we have been waiting for eight months. No one helps us.” …
Despite all the stories, new people come to the border every day. They take the train or walk all the way from Belgrade, says Bruno Alvarez Contreras, founder of the small Spanish aid organization No-Name Kitchen. He sees them going every day and getting back injured. “Police in an EU country should know better”, he says. “To abuse these people is incredible.”
The good performance of the Croatian national team at this year’s FIFA World Cup has been used to promote far-right forces. The Croatian national team finished second in the tournament, becoming one of the smallest nations to make it to the finals of the event. FIFA awarded the team’s captain, Luka Modrić, the “Golden Ball” as the Cup’s best player: here.
Croatian police sends refugees back violently; European Union complicit: here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 Scientistreports 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.”
Also the driver of the train bringing more than a thousand refugees on their way to Austria was arrested.
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.
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.