German pro-refugee activists attacked

This video says about itself:

One woman’s strength is helping refugees in Macedonia

“I’m doing this because I have never seen so many people on the street. No one is helping them.”

The smiling face that greets refugees when they get to the Greece-Macedonia border is that of Gabriela Andreevska. She welcomes them, feeds them, and sends them on their way to the EU feeling like human beings.

Filmed by Matthew Cassel.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

Pro-refugee organisation comes under political attack in Germany

6 February 2016

The Berlin-based refugee support organisation Moabit Hilft (Moabit Helps) has recently come under strong media criticism. In the course of the past 10 days the organisation has received threats of murder in hate mail and by telephone.

An online group calling itself “Moabit Lies” has become active,” backed by the well-known Berlin neo-Nazi Gregor Stein. It has accused Moabit Helps of dishonestly using donations. On Monday, the door of its office on the grounds of the Berlin state office for health and social care (Lageso) was kicked down. The media has also joined in the attacks on Moabit Helps.

The immediate pretext was an incident last week. A volunteer assisting refugees who was part of the circle around Moabit Helps claimed on Facebook that he had assisted a young Syrian who had been forced to wait in line at Lageso for days. The volunteer alleged the Syrian had caught a high fever and frostbite, and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

But later that day, the author of the message, Dirk V., admitted to police he had made the story up. Diana Henniges, a Moabit Helps spokeswoman, said they had made a mistake in not reviewing the Facebook message more closely. However, “every volunteer, every politician and every press representative” had been able to imagine the death of a refugee. “This is the real tragedy”, she said. “It could have been possible.”

Dirk V. stated he had been pushed to the breaking point by the back-breaking work of providing assistance and wanted to use the story to “shake things up and change something.” In fact, Dirk V. had just been released from a long stay in hospital due to burnout, according to Reyna B., another volunteer who chatted with him during the night.

Reyna B. also did not initially doubt the veracity of the report of a fatality.

“For six months, we residents have watched what has happened”, she wrote in shock after Dirk’s final message. “For six months we have assisted, rushed around cared, fed, provided, healed … and we have repeatedly said, there will be deaths if this continues. And it is downplayed, sugar coated and dismissed. It is being presented as if this is normal, just a minor administrative crisis … ”

She referred to miscarriages, the case of the young refugee boy who was kidnapped in the chaos at Lageso last summer and murdered, several resuscitations on the Lageso grounds following heart attacks, diabetes shocks, all-night ambulance deployments to assist collapsed individuals, and the hunger endured by refugees when Lageso refused to pay out pocket money. She wrote, “Last Friday, I cried on the way home for the first time. Until then, the hope that this city, this country, would hear the humanitarian call had not been broken.”

Politicians and the media have used the incident to launch a cynical propaganda campaign against Moabit Helps. It is aimed not only at intimidating this organisation, but all volunteers assisting refugees. It also opens the door for right-wing hate mail, as Henniges told the WSWS. “Cologne was the starting gun. But the report of a dead refugee has released the genie from the bottle.”

Media representatives, who went to Lageso in the morning after the report with large camera teams to sensationalise the death of a refugee, are now targeting Moabit Helps. They are accusing an organisation of volunteers, most of whom work for free and without whose efforts the provision of care to refugees would have long since collapsed, of being “unprofessional”, “haughty” and “starry-eyed.”

A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from January 29 was especially repugnant. Under the headline “The haughtiness of the helpers”, it stated, “Many still feel the exhilaration of the summer days, when anyone who brought a case of mineral water to the Lageso felt they were better than the Berlin administration, leading to haughtiness. Several helpers have been cultivating an exaggerated image of themselves ever since, which they would never concede to a professional politician.”

The FAZ based itself on the statement of a Berlin Green Party politician, Bettina Jarasch, who described the work of the volunteers as basically “self-fulfillment”.

In a piece headlined “How to make propaganda with a lie”, N-TV wrote that the problem was not the author of the false report, but rather “an association like ‘Moabit Helps’, which did not even check the story before using it as a pretext to score points.”

The Berlin Senate exploited the incident for its own ends. On the following day, it quickly signed off on a plan to create a refugee ghetto on the grounds of the former Tempelhof airport.

Interior Senator Frank Henkl (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) called for legal consequences for Dirk V., fully aware that simply posting a false message online is not a criminal offence. He threatened the spokespeople at Moabit Helps, stating, “Whoever triggers and spreads such rumours without checking them is deliberately trying to poison the atmosphere in our city.”

Responding to the call for “professionalisation”, Diana Henniges said, “Only because we neglected a trifle and did not check the message? We were forced out of bed in the early hours of the morning and press representatives demanded statements by telephone. Where were these parties and media representatives six months ago, when the people at Lageso were starving, having to stand in line day and night and sleep on the ground? Nobody was talking about professionalism then. Without us, without the many people who assisted without pay in their free time, we would have a worse situation today, the probability of deaths would be much higher.”

Moabit Helps was formed by residents in the longstanding Berlin working class district of Moabit at the beginning of the refugee crisis and became a role model for many other volunteer initiatives across the city. It plays a leading part in the strong solidarity towards refugees in the Berlin population, which has not diminished in the wake of the New Year’s Eve events in Cologne. They have repeatedly criticised the terrible conditions at Lageso and in the mass accommodation centres, and organised protests against them. Based on their information, 40 lawyers filed charges against those responsible in the Senate for violations of law at Lageso.

The Berlin Senate had recently come under criticism from the establishment. The pictures of people lined up at Lageso and overcrowded accommodation centres are inopportune for the capital city. If the report of the fatality of the Syrian refugee had been true, some journalists speculate, the Senate and Social Affairs Senator Mario Czaja could well have been brought down.

It is no wonder that Moabit Helps has long been a thorn in the side of the city’s political elite. For workers and young people in the city and beyond, the attack on the organisation is a warning sign. The stepped-up attacks on refugees are increasingly also directed against the general population that has spontaneously come to the aid of refugees and who, like them, oppose war and poverty.

Thousands of people attended demonstrations across Australia on Thursday, opposing Wednesday’s High Court ruling sanctioning the bipartisan government-Labor Party regime of indefinitely detaining refugees in virtual concentration camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island: here.

Cinereous vulture in Macedonia, after ten years

This video, from Azerbaijan, Turianchai reserve, June 24, 2013 is called Cinereous Vulture. Battle.

From the Vulture Conservation Foundation:

Black (cinereous) vulture seen in Macedonia – first observation in the last 10 years

A second or third year black vulture was seen (Friday 30.10.15) at a vulture supplementary feeding station in Vitachevo, together with 28 griffon vultures.

Black vultures became extinct in the Balkans throughout the 20th century, except for one isolated breeding population that remained in Dadia Forest in NE Greece, and that totals about 30 pairs.

Black vulture populations in Spain – their European stronghold – have been increasing (now totals more than 2000 pairs). The reintroduced population in France is also well established and includes now more than 35 pairs, so the number of black vultures seen in Central Europe, notably around the Alps, has been increasing in recent years.

Vitacheco is about 350km from Dadia, as the crow flies. This bird could have originated there, but a western European origin cannot also be dismissed.

The Vulture Conservation Foundation together with a number of partners, including the Bulgarian NGO Green Balkans, are now starting a project to reintroduce black vultures to the Central Balkan mountains in Bulgaria (LIFE+ Vultures Return Back to LIFE). The project is now starting, but first releases of black vultures will only happen in 2018.

This observation is good news, and creates a lot of expectations that in the not so distant future this species could eventually be re-established around the Balkans. With adequate vulture conservation measures taking now place in several countries in the region, and with a coordinated effort to control poisoning – vultures main threat -, we hope that the silhouette of black vultures becomes soon a more familiar sight in the Balkan skyline.

This article was published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation in Oct 2015

WHICH NATURAL RESOURCES SHOULD WE FIGHT TO SAVE? For 35 years, Cave Petrevski has worked in North Macedonia’s Mavrovo National Park, an area protected from development since World War II, including regions zoned to prevent all human activity. After a 2009 law on environmental protection, Petrevski says 12 experts surveyed the park and compiled a report preserving strictly protected areas. But when the government reshaped the zones, Petrevski was alarmed to find somehow they were changed to allow hydropower, even in these strictly protected areas. [HuffPost]

White stork news from Macedonia

This is a white stork video from Bulgaria.

From BirdLife:

Storks – counted and supported by local volunteers!

By Ksenija Putilin, Mon, 07/09/2015 – 12:54

The best-known and most iconic migratory bird in Macedonia is the stork. Which is why we were excited to conduct a national census as part of our Mediterranean Flyways project – we knew that this would be very important scientifically but it would also show us just how strong our ties are with our Local Conservation Groups and volunteers.

The census showed that we have 817 active nests in Macedonia, occupied by 2027 juvenile storks, but it took over 20 volunteers and the involvement of the local population from over 1000 villages to collect the data.

“The stork census was completed in the middle of July, just before the juvenile storks leave the nests. It was a mammoth task and we are extremely grateful to all of the local conservationists and stork-lovers who made it happen”

states Ksenija Putilin from the Macedonian Ecological Society.

The local volunteers worked in different conditions and found various ways of handling the terrain; one of our volunteers covered his region on a bicycle, two volunteers counted storks on motorbikes, one hiked up hills to get a better look at what is inside each nest and some got lost many times looking for remote locations. However, most of them were excited to report back what they saw and how proud every local was of “their” storks.

This pride of one’s storks sometimes even lead to tensions so the volunteers had to tread carefully when talking about ‘the villages with most storks’, ‘largest nests’ or the commitment of locals who take care of them.

“We were about to leave a village where we didn’t find a nest so we stopped to check with a local whether this was true and he confirmed it. So, we left the village and drove away but 10 minutes later we were stopped by a shepherd who wanted us to correct the mistake – there was a nest in the village, and it was on his roof!”

reported Bisera Vlahova, an MES volunteer.

But we discovered that this pride in not unfounded – in many villages the locals indeed act as conservationists. In a region of Macedonia which is famous for stork stories the locals have built their own nesting platforms and are looking at ways to improve them so they can get even more storks to stay there.

“I saw a large nest on a roof, but it was very strange so I looked at it from different sides. Then the owner of the house stepped out and explained that it is strangely shaped because he had to put an armchair underneath it when it once almost fell apart”

states Bobi Arsovski, MES volunteer.

“A baby stork fell from the nest before it was ready, so we picked it up and now we keep it in a barn and feed it – he is going to grow strong and migrate with all the others”,

said Vlado, a local from Pelagonia.

All of our teams came back with stories of how the locals are still very strongly connected to these iconic birds. Storks are the stars of many legends, jokes and beliefs. In some regions people grow anxious when the storks start building the nests because it means hard work in the field is about to begin, in other regions people firmly believe that storks protect the villages from predators that might harm their livestock but all over Macedonia everyone knows that storks’ nests should never be harmed.

In a few villages we heard how the locals almost chased out teams of workers who wanted to take down nests for repairs of either electrical poles or roofs.

The last national stork census in Macedonia was conducted in 1958 and it recorded 1132 active nests and 3576 juveniles. Also, unlike today, when most stork nests are on electrical poles or similar constructions, then storks mostly nested on houses.

The participation and support of local people is critical to effective, sustainable conservation. BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme supports the individuals and organisations who work with the BirdLife Partnership to deliver conservation, for biodiversity and for people, at the local level.

Volunteer profiles – thank you!

Slave (22 from Radovish) is a student of computer science with a keen interest in birds, spiders and nature in general:

“I joined MES 2 years ago and became involved in bird monitoring straight away. Since then I have also actively participated in field work with the Biology Student Research Society. I volunteered to take part in the census so I can cover the region around my home town. Later, I learned that I was the only volunteer who counted storks on bicycle. It was very exciting to learn just how positive the image of storks is in my region and then compare my data with the rest of the regions. Beside the fact that I got to learn more about the ecology of white storks, I was also thrilled to have seen my first black stork“.

Magdalena (33 from Skopje) is a lawyer and a first time volunteer for MES:

“I have an office job in Skopje so I don’t get to spend much time exploring the scenery in Macedonia. I volunteered because I learned that I could visit a region in Macedonia I have hardly ever seen – the rice fields of Cheshinovo-Obleshevo. It was an amazing experience. I got to see the biggest stork nest in Macedonia, an impressive 3 meter construction one can hardly believe was made by birds; I got to see a heron colony on a tree between the rice-fields; I discovered the unexpected beauty of rice-fields and all the living creatures in them. I especially enjoyed seeing young storks attempting to fly out from the nest and the friendliness of my counting team. My biggest challenge was learning to read maps, the small village roads were a nightmare! I would definitely want to volunteer more with MES”.

Euro Birdwatch 2015 in Macedonia: here.

Benharzallah, N., Si Bachir, A., Taleb, F. & Barbraud, C. (2015). Factors affecting growth parameters of White Stork nestlings in eastern Algeria. Journal of Ornithology 156: 601–612: here.

Macedonian soldiers shoot refugees

This video says about itself:

Refugees hit by train: Mostly from Afghanistan and Somalia, killed by train in Macedonia

24 April 2015

Fourteen migrants were killed on Thursday after being hit by a train in Macedonia, as they were walking along the tracks on their way to Western Europe.

The migrants were part of a group of 50, most of them from Somalia and Afghanistan, and were passing through Pcinja district on Thursday night.

Local media reported that the migrants were walking along the train tracks when an international train travelling from the Macedonian town of Gevgelija to Belgrade was also crossing the same area.

The driver attempted to stop the train and sounded its horn when he saw the migrants on the tracks. Most of the group evaded the train but 14 died after being hit.

An increasing number of migrants from the Middle East and Africa now opt to cross the Balkans to reach Western Europe. It is believed that more than 1,700 migrants travelling across the Mediterranean have died so far in 2015.

After Turkish soldiers shot refugees from the war in Syria, now it looks like more to the west, this inhuman example is followed against refugees from the Syrian and other wars.

By Bill Van Auken:

Troops fire on refugees trying to enter Macedonia

22 August 2015

Macedonian soldiers and police opened fire Friday on thousands of refugees crowded at a border crossing, leaving several people wounded. The violence came one day after the government in Skopje declared a state of emergency and rushed troops to the country’s border with Greece to stem the flow of refugees seeking to cross the Balkans into northern Europe.

After sealing the border with razor wire, the Macedonian security forces, backed by armored vehicles, fired tear gas, stun grenades and plastic bullets into the crowd, which included many women and children. Police using batons and shields beat a number of the refugees.

Unrest among the refugees increased after Macedonian authorities announced that they would allow “a limited number of illegal migrants in vulnerable categories” to cross the border and let in a few hundred refugees, consisting largely of families with children and pregnant women.

The move intensified demands from the rest of the refugees, who have been trapped in a no-man’s-land along the border, sleeping outside in the cold and damp, without food or shelter.

Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevsky defended the vicious assault on the defenseless refugees, declaring that the troops and police were “standing on our territory and defending the border.” The aim, he added, was to “reduce illegal border entry to a minimum.”

The Macedonian government, the spokesman said, was treating the refugees “according to our capacity,” adding that the European Union must do more to assist with what is a “global problem.”

The hardline policy against refugees adopted by the rightwing government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is widely seen as an attempt to create a diversion from the growing popular uproar over a massive wiretapping scandal and endemic corruption, in advance of an upcoming election.

The violence against the refugees drew condemnation from human rights groups, which charged that the actions of Macedonia were in violation of international law.

“The Macedonian authorities are responding as if they were dealing with rioters rather than refugees who have fled conflict and persecution,” said Amnesty International’s Europe deputy director Gauri van Gulik.

“All countries have a duty to protect those fleeing conflict and persecution, and Macedonia is no exception,” van Gulik added. “When the system cannot cope, you improve the system, you don’t just stop people from coming in.”

The United Nations agency for refugees issued a statement declaring that it “is particularly worried about the thousands of vulnerable refugees and migrants, especially women and children, now massed on the Greek side of the border amid deteriorating conditions.”

Many of the refugees are fleeing the death and destruction caused by imperialist interventions in the Middle East. Of the 42,000 refugees registered as traveling through Macedonia over the past month—double the number of the month before—more than half were from Syria, where the Western-backed war for regime change has driven some four million people out of the country.

Outside the Macedonian border crossing, several people held up signs reading, “Help us, Syria.”

“We are very angry because the police had told us they would let us through today. We are not animals,” Jad, a 25-year-old Syrian, told AFP.

Jacob, also Syrian, told the news agency, “We are hunted in Syria because we are Christian. They wanted to kill us. Why won’t they let us through here?” he asked.

Macedonia is only the latest flashpoint in the campaign of repressive measures being unleashed against refugees across Europe. …

Hungary, the EU country bordering the Balkans, has begun building a four-meter-high fence to block refugees from entering from Serbia. Britain, meanwhile, has beefed up security at the French port of Calais to block refugees trying to cross from France.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are set to meet in Berlin on Monday for a discussion on the refugee issue. In preparation for the meeting, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve held a news conference on Thursday in Berlin calling for a stepped-up and coordinated response to the rising flow of refugees.

“It’s unacceptable for European institutions to continue working at the pace they are currently operating at,” said de Maiziere. He said that he and the French interior minister had agreed that the EU should assist Italy and Greece in setting up “waiting areas” for imprisoning refugees. He also called upon the EU Commission to pressure countries bordering the EU to take back refugees denied asylum and expelled from EU countries.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission responded to Maiziere’s criticism by telling reporters in Brussels that the problem was not with the EU, but rather with its member governments, which have failed to support existing plans for dealing with the issue.

“The proposals are all on the table,” said the spokeswoman, Annika Breidthardt. “It’s time that member states adopted them.”

“We can only succeed if we work together on this, not against each other,” she added.

With the drive to create a “fortress Europe” to keep the refugees out, the national conflicts between the various European powers are intensifying, with increasingly bitter recriminations over differing refugee policies as well as over the number of refugees being accepted by each country.

Within this context, rightwing and neofascist elements are waging an increasingly violent campaign against refugees and immigrants, while leading bourgeois politicians in a number of countries are calling for the scrapping of the Schengen Agreement, which allows visa-free travel across the EU.

Brutal Revenge Against Protesters: Police Violence at the Greek-Macedonian Border: here.

CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ German prisoner, court rules

This December 2006 video from the USA says about itself:

At National Press Club in Washington, D.C., CIA kidnap victim Khaled El-Masri tells the national press and members of the audience about his experiences being abducted, detained, and flown to a secret torture facility by CIA operatives. El-Masri was interrogated and tortured for four months before being released in the dark of night on a hill in Albania. To learn more about his case and secrete CIA kidnapping, go to

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, human rights court rules

Landmark European court of human rights judgment says CIA tortured wrongly detained German citizen

Richard Norton-Taylor

Thursday 13 December 2012 18.54 GMT

Khaled el-Masri

The European court of human rights has ruled German citizen Khaled el-Masri was tortured by CIA agents, the first time the court has described treatment meted out by the CIA as torture. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/AP

CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, it also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin allegedly linked to terrorist organisations.

Masri was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and handed over to a CIA “rendition team” at Skopje airport and secretly flown to Afghanistan.

It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.

“The grand chamber of the European court of human rights unanimously found that Mr el-Masri was subjected to forced disappearance, unlawful detention, extraordinary rendition outside any judicial process, and inhuman and degrading treatment,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

He described the judgment as “an authoritative condemnation of some of the most objectionable tactics employed in the post-9/11 war on terror”. It should be a wake-up call for the Obama administration and US courts, he told the Guardian. For them to continue to avoid serious scrutiny of CIA activities was “simply unacceptable”, he said.

Jamil Dakwar, of the American Civil Liberties Union, described the ruling as “a huge victory for justice and the rule of law”.

The use of CIA interrogation methods widely denounced as torture during the Bush administration’s “war on terror” also came under scrutiny in Congress on Thursday. The US Senate’s select committee on intelligence was expected to vote on whether to approve a mammoth review it has undertaken into the controversial practices that included waterboarding, stress positions, forced nudity, beatings and sleep and sensory deprivation.

The report, that runs to almost 6,000 pages based on a three-year review of more than 6m pieces of information, is believed to conclude that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” adopted by the CIA during the Bush years did not produce any major breakthroughs in intelligence, contrary to previous claims. The committee, which is dominated by the Democrats, is likely to vote to approve the report, though opposition from the Republican members may prevent the report ever seeing the light of day.

The Strasbourg court said it found Masri’s account of what happened to him “to be established beyond reasonable doubt” and that Macedonia had been “responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the US authorities in the context of an extra-judicial ‘rendition'”.

In January 2004, Macedonian police took him to a hotel in Skopje, where he was kept locked in a room for 23 days and questioned in English, despite his limited proficiency in that language, about his alleged ties with terrorist organisations, the court said in its judgment. His requests to contact the German embassy were refused. At one point, when he said he intended to leave, he was threatened with being shot.

“Masri’s treatment at Skopje airport at the hands of the CIA rendition team – being severely beaten, sodomised, shackled and hooded, and subjected to total sensory deprivation – had been carried out in the presence of state officials of [Macedonia] and within its jurisdiction,” the court ruled.

It added: “Its government was consequently responsible for those acts performed by foreign officials. It had failed to submit any arguments explaining or justifying the degree of force used or the necessity of the invasive and potentially debasing measures. Those measures had been used with premeditation, the aim being to cause Mr Masri severe pain or suffering in order to obtain information. In the court’s view, such treatment had amounted to torture, in violation of Article 3 [of the European human rights convention].”

In Afghanistan, Masri was incarcerated for more than four months in a small, dirty, dark concrete cell in a brick factory near the capital, Kabul, where he was repeatedly interrogated and was beaten, kicked and threatened. His repeated requests to meet with a representative of the German government were ignored, said the court.

Masri was released in April 2004. He was taken, blindfolded and handcuffed, by plane to Albania and subsequently to Germany, after the CIA admited he was wrongly detained. The Macedonian government, which the court ordered must pay Masri €60,000 (£49,000) in compensation, has denied involvement in kidnapping.

UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, described the ruling as “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”.

He said the US government must issue an apology for its “central role in a web of systematic crimes and human rights violations by the Bush-era CIA, and to pay voluntary compensation to Mr el-Masri”.

Germany should ensure that the US officials involved in this case were now brought to trial.

Lesser kestrel saved from death by bullets

This is a lesser kestrel video from France.

From Fauna & Flora International:

Rescued kestrel released after close call with illegal hunters

6th September 2012

A team of conservationists in Macedonia has managed to rescue, revive and release a lesser kestrel that had been shot and injured by hunters.

On 6 August 2012, during a routine survey of the medium-voltage electricity pylons near Sudik village in eastern Macedonia, two researchers – Metodija Velevski and Bobi Arsovski – from the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) were disturbed to find three dead lesser kestrels, which had been killed with pellet shotguns.

The team located the shotgun capsules near the dead birds and found several more in a perimeter of 300 metres. They also found a survivor – a female who, despite sustaining injuries to her forehead and breast, was mercifully still alive (though severely dehydrated).

They instantly rushed her back to Skopje for emergency treatment at the National Veterinary Institute, where X-rays revealed two pellets stuck in the skin but no broken bones.

Once her wounds had been disinfected, the researchers took the kestrel back to an improvised shelter that had been put together by Mr Arsovski, one of MES’s most active members.

“Although the injuries from the pellets were not too serious in themselves, the bird was extremely stressed, and the vet advised us that this would be the biggest threat to her survival because stress can kill,” said Danka Uzunova, intern at MES and alumnus of the Conservation Leadership Programme.

“He said that if the kestrel started feeding and flying while in recovery then there would be a chance of her surviving and being returned to the wild, so all we could do was wait and hope for the best.”

After a few days the team began to see real improvements. “For the first couple of days she was very timid, and would not leave the corner of her shelter, and I had to actually put the food in her beak to make her eat,” explained Mr Arsovski. “But then she started to trust me, and began flying freely in the shelter – it was sight of real triumph. After a while I started putting several small mice in the shelter and she would catch them, like the pro predator she is,” he added with a smile.

Back into the wild

After 10 days in the shelter, the survivor had recovered from her wounds and regained her confidence. She had also gained back enough weight to face the migratory challenge ahead.

On 16 August, the MES team returned to the scene of the crime, this time to release the kestrel in her home grounds.

In the neighbouring cereal crop fields they spotted around 70 other lesser kestrels, feeding and aggregating before the migration back to Africa. Their presence was reassuring for the team as they knew their feathered friend would have time to interact with the group prior to their departure.

Once released, the kestrel made some short, clumsy flights from one electricity pole to the next (“She looked like a young kestrel who was just learning to fly, she was flapping her wings so vigorously!” said Danka). But then a soft, warm wind picked up, and from that moment on, her movements became smooth and elegant – she was back on track.

After watching their kestrel interact with others in the colony and perform a typical gliding flight (used by kestrels when soaring and hunting), the team returned home filled with relief, hope and happiness.

Tackling the wider issue

Macedonia once held 6% of Europe’s lesser kestrel population, but the latest information indicates that this percentage has fallen by half over the last ten years. Although these birds are strictly protected under Macedonian law, their relatively large size and steady flight patterns make them an easy target for hunters.

As a result, the National and Regional Hunting Inspectors (who had been informed of the incident) have issued a written warning to all hunting societies in the Sveti Nikole region and to all hunters registered in the area.

There are however many illegal, unregistered hunters in the region, and the Hunting Inspectorate believes that these are the most likely suspects in the case.

“So far, the Inspectorate has filed a charge against an unknown hunter on the basis of our report into this illegal hunting incident,” says Danka. “Although the process is still ongoing, hopefully it will serve as a warning to others. At the very least, it reminds us that there are people out there who care about these beautiful birds.”

This news just in…

This story was brought to the attention of Fauna & Flora International by Danka Uzunova, one of the researchers who released the kestrel. Danka is an alumnus of the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) – a partnership between BirdLife International, Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society that works to develop future conservation leaders.

Danka has been volunteering and working with the Macedonian Ecological Society since 2006, and in 2011 was awarded funding from the CLP for her work on assessing the threats to the lesser kestrel, imperial eagle and Egyptian vulture in two proposed Important Bird Areas in Macedonia. Today she is an intern at the society, and her placement is also funded by the CLP.

Miocene fossil animals discovered in Macedonia

This 2015 video is about giraffe evolution.

From the Southeast European Times:

Evidence of prehistoric animals unearthed in Macedonia


Fossil remains of an ancient giraffe, antelopes, rhinoceroses, a saber-toothed tiger, mastodons and other large animals have been located near a village in eastern Macedonia.

By Zoran Nikolovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje — 13/09/07

A prehistoric giraffe discovered in eastern Macedonia earlier this summer is the first to be found in Europe, according to paleontologists. The ancient animal was among several sets of fossil remains dating five to ten million years ago.

Located outside the village of Stamer, near Delcovo, the fossils bear witness that antelopes, prehistoric rhinoceroses, saber-toothed tigers, and mastodons once lived on Europe’s soil, as well as the giraffe. Such evidence could also be helpful in tracing the evolution of homo sapien, which is believed to have originated in Africa around 200,000 years ago and migrated later to Europe and Asia. …

“In the first location, we found remains of a prehistoric giraffe, the first such finding in Europe. This is an important finding and we hope to find many more specimens in this location,” said Geraads.

According to Nikolaj Spasov of the National Natural History Museum in Sofia, the Stamer site contains remains from the Late Miocene period. The unearthed giraffe, he says, represents the ancestor of present-day African giraffes. Today’s animal weighs up to one tonne on average, while the Macedonian specimen weighed around two tonnes, was shorter and had horns.

Miocene Chalicotherium in the Netherlands: here.