Olm salamanders in Slovenia, video

This 29 January 2020 video from Slovenia says about itself:

The caves beneath Predjama Castle are home to the remarkable olm salamanders. Their eerie pale skin and the fact that they possess both gills and lungs is why people call them ‘the human fish’.

Five million bramblings in Slovenia

This video says about itself:

5 million Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) in Slovenia

Zasavje region, central Slovenia, January 2019.

This video says about itself:

Flyby of Bramblings gathering at roosting site in Zasavje region, Slovenia, on 24th of January 2019. Flyover of MEGA flock lasted for 30 minutes! Estimated 5 million birds gathered at a roosting site.

Read more here.

Young long-eared owls, night and day

This 22 June 2017 video is about young long-eared owls, during night and day.

Aleida Kouwert in the Netherlands made this video.

About young long-eared owls in Slovenia, see here.

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.

Rare amphibian babies hatching in Slovenian cave

This video says about itself:

30 May 2016

Postojna Cave (Postojnska jama) in Slovenia – In January 2016 an extraordinary event has happened. The female olm (Proteus anguinus) has started laying eggs in the aquarium of the cave in front of visitors. After four months 24 embryos are developing well and already “practicing their dragon dance“. This is a funny video of baby dragon embryos rotating in their jellies – a few steps from hatching. But their destiny is still uncertain so please keep your fingers crossed.

See also here.

Cave salamander discoveries in Montenegro and Bosnia

This video from Slovenia is called A True Miracle in Postojna CaveProteus anguinus laying eggs in public.

From BirdLife:

Scientific breakthrough reveals evidence of ‘human fish’ locked away in cave system

By Shaun Hurrell, Mon, 09/02/2015 – 10:35

How do you find physical evidence of a rare species when most of its habitat (the subterranean waters of limestone cave systems in the Balkans) is inaccessible to humans? The ‘human fish’ is the largest cave animal in the world. Despite this, Proteus anguinus – a blind, entirely-aquatic salamander commonly known as the olm, and endemic to the Dinaric Alps – is incredibly difficult to find.

The answer was recently provided by the Society for Cave Biology (SCB; Društvo za jamsko biologijo) in a project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) when they found the first physical evidence of the species in Montenegro using new techniques to sample its DNA.

In this region, activities such as water extraction, river damming and agriculture have increased the stress on Proteus and other aquatic cave animals. Limestone habitats like cave systems can be intricate and complex, having taken millions of years to form by natural processes. One wrong move can wipe out entire species, so urgent measures need to be taken in order to save them.

Nick-named the ‘human fish’ by locals because of its skin colour, Proteus are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and in some localities the species is already extinct. However the extent of the decline cannot be estimated without an extensive survey of its distribution – in habitat where access is easy for the human fish, but not so easy for human beings. The purpose of the CEPF project was to solve this problem: to test a scientific method that safely, effectively and accurately determines Proteus presence.

Environmental DNA

SCB, experts in speleological (cave and karst) research, designed a solution based on so-called ‘eDNA’. During the process of skin regeneration, Proteus shed fragments of epidermal cells which are carried away by water. DNA dissolved in water is called environmental DNA (eDNA), and SCB successfully tested and perfected the sensitive and inexpensive technique of identifying Proteus eDNA from samples of water.

After many hours in the field and thousands of water samples, the team have discovered new localities of Proteus in Montenegro and in Bosnia and Hercegovina. This ground-breaking research will give SCB and partners the evidence to appeal and counsel the nature conservation authorities in Montenegro to start all necessary legal actions to protect Proteus in their territories, and to guide the management planning of authorities in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Government, nazis and press censorship in Slovenia

This video is about neo-nazi movements like Blood and Honour.

And these videos are the sequels.

By Markus Salzmann:

Press freedom under attack in Slovenia

24 September 2014

A journalist with the Slovenian daily Delo is to be charged in court for the publication of alleged sensitive state information. Anuska Delic is threatened with three years’ imprisonment for the exposure of ties between a neo-Nazi group and the Democratic Party (SDS) led by former Prime Minister Janez Jansa at the end of 2011.

The trial against Delic is an attempt to silence critical voices and limit press freedom. It is directly connected to the drastic cuts and privatizations implemented in Slovenia at the behest of the European Union.

The charge was lodged in April 2013. The trial is to take place in the capital Ljubljana a year and a half later. According to media reports, the foreign intelligence service SOVA accused the journalist of publishing strictly confidential information on intelligence.

During the 2011 election campaign, Delic published a series of articles documenting the links between the SDS and the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour. At the time, Janez Jansa was celebrated by Western governments and banks as a guarantor for a radical reform course.

After the election, Jansa took over as premier, a post he held from 2005 to 2008 as leader of a right-wing coalition; however, his government quickly fell apart due to a corruption scandal. Jansa himself was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Delic uncovered that Dejan Prosen, a leader of Blood and Honour, was a member of SDS at the same time. Prosen denied the allegation and after the publication of the article, all photos of Prosen were deleted from the SDS web site.

According to Delic, the ties between neo-Nazis and senior officials within the government were known about a year before the publication of her article. She considers herself to be a victim of political persecution because she exposed the presence of neo-Nazis in one of the country’s main parties. It was an abuse of the judiciary for political ends, she insists, as the purpose of the charge was to uncover her sources and take action against them.

Along with the Slovenian Journalists Association (DNS), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Southeast European Media Organisation (SEMO) have protested against the judicial prosecution of the journalist. They expressed their concern, calling upon the Slovenian authorities to immediately halt the proceedings. SEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic feared that the trial could act as a precedent in Europe. “Slovenia and the EU are sending the wrong message with this trial”, he said.

Dunja Mijatovic, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representation for media freedom, also directed a letter to the Slovenian foreign ministry.

The restriction of press freedom is a response to the social crisis in the former Yugoslavian republic, which joined the European Union in 2004. The attempt to silence critical voices goes hand in hand with another round of massive social attacks. The government is under immense pressure from the international financial markets.

As a consequence of the global economic crisis in 2008, exports in Slovenia were reduced by 16 percent and GDP fell by 8 percent. Unemployment tripled between 2008 and 2013. This has been accompanied by a sustained political crisis, leading to the virtual collapse of the established bourgeois parties. In July, the little known jurist Miro Cerar won the election without a recognizable political program, becoming prime minister. Twenty-five years after the reintroduction of capitalism and 10 years after joining the EU, Slovenia is characterized by political, economic and social instability.

Along with Miro Cerar’s self-named party (SMC, Party of Miro Cerar), the current government includes the conservative Pensioners’ Party (Desus) and the Social Democrats (SD). The coalition relies on the support of 52 of the 90 parliamentary deputies. Cerar immediately reassured the financial markets and the EU that he would continue to pursue the austerity policies of the previous government.

Whale news, good and bad

This video is about whales.

From Wildlife Extra:

Victory and defeat for whales at the 65th International Whaling Conference

Sperm whales were one of the whale species that Japan was previously able to kill on the grounds of scientific research in the Antarctic

The 65th International Whaling Conference meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia – which saw the attendance of more than 60 member countries – was something of an emotional roller-coaster for those involved, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), with victory and defeat on both sides of the table.

Pivotal milestones were achieved toward the conservation and preservation of whales, with a resolution being passed to provide increased protection and support to whales, and a further ruling that Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ in Antarctica was illegal, with no further permits to be issued in the future.

The resolution by Monaco on Highly Migratory Species aims to provide greater global protection for whales, allowing international bodies such as the UN to become involved. This victory was made despite pro-whaling countries opposing it. Japan prevented the resolution being passed by consensus, forcing a vote to take place, which went through 37 to 15, with seven abstentions.

IFAW Whales Programme Director Patrick Ramage said: “We are delighted that this important conservation measure for whales has been passed, showing that small countries can make big waves for whales at the IWC. We were pleased to see the pro-conservation countries stand together to adopt a common position and give it safe passage. We were also relieved to see that the EU was able to get its act together and support it as a bloc.”

There was further victory for whales as Japan’s so-called scientific whaling in Antarctica was ruled illegal, with no further permits to be issued. This news was of course not welcomed by Japan, who recently sent an email out to scientists around the world asking for international help to review its plans for a new ‘scientific whaling’ programme.

Ramage commented on the result, saying: “We are delighted by this crucial victory for whales. After the recent historic World Court ruling it begged the question of whether the IWC would be up to the challenge of imposing court-ordered standards for scientific whaling or content to stand on the sidelines while Japan continued commercial whaling by another name.

“This measure goes a long way in securing the full promise of the ICJ judgment which gives whales in Antarctica protection against slaughter for the first time in more than a century. We now urge Japan to call a permanent end to its illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.”

Although the two victories were greatly welcomed by IFAW and pro-conservationists, there was dismay as plans for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed due to opposition from pro-whaling nations.

The proposal – which was put forward by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and South Africa, and new sponsor Gabon – aimed to provide a comprehensive approach to cetacean conservation, managing all threats to whales in the region.

After the resolution was pushed to vote by pro-whaling countries, it failed to achieve the three-quarters majority needed for adoption (40-18 against and two abstentions).

A proposal for this sanctuary has been tabled at nearly every IWC meeting since 1999, but has stalled every time. A small consolation is that this year was the closest that a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary had come to adoption, according to the Brazilian Commissioner.

“This valuable conservation proposal has sadly failed once again because of the influence of countries outside the relevant South Atlantic region,” said Ramage. “Non-lethal research on whales in this particular area, as elsewhere, has provided much more reliable and precise information than has ever been achieved by so-called ‘scientific whaling’ or other lethal methods.

“It is very disappointing that such a positive opportunity for whales has been harpooned again by Japan and her allies.”

Whaling conference in Slovenia, 15 September

This video is called Killer Whales | Deadly But Social and Smart | Documentary.

From Wildlife Extra:

International Whaling Commission to meet in Slovenia on 15 September

The 65th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will begin on 15 September in Portoroz, Slovenia.

Pro-conservation countries and organisations are once again preparing to take on Japan and other pro-whaling nations.

The fight will be over the integrity of the global commercial whaling moratorium that has spared tens of thousands of whales from the harpoon since 1982.

Top priorities for organisations such the Humane Society International (HIS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) include urging whale-friendly governments to increase pressure for stronger protection for whales and turn back efforts to dilute the worldwide commercial whaling moratorium.

Encouragement will also be given to the IWC Commissioners to take all necessary steps to prevent Japan from further whaling in light of the International Court of Justice’s March 2014 judgment that Japan’s Antarctic whaling did not qualify as scientific research and thus undermined the moratorium.

There is also opposition to Japan’s attempts to create a new category of coastal whaling and Greenland’s proposal to expand aboriginal (subsistence) whaling, both of which would allow commercial sale of whale meat and similarly threaten to undermine the moratorium.

HSI Vice President Kitty Block said: “This year we intend to press all of the nations whose citizens care about whales to exert strong leadership in halting the spread of new whaling proposals.

“We will challenge IWC Commissioners to adopt an agenda that extends beyond whaling to the broader range of threats that imperil whales throughout our oceans.”

Edible dormice and a Rothschild millionaire

In Alice in Wonderland, the March Hare and the Mad hatter put the Dormouse into a teapot, drawing by John Tenniel

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Star Journalist Eats Dormouse Shocker

Friday 11th October

PETER FROST makes no bones about a youthful indiscretion that profoundly affected his culinary preferences

Some years ago a fraternal delegation of British trade unionists were touring Tito’s Yugoslavia.

After an afternoon visiting farms and factories they had reached a castle in Slovenia.

The multicourse evening dinner was impressive, the folk music and dancing equally entertaining.

The actual meal, a meaty spicy stew Slovenian speciality, had been delicious. But what was the curious dark gamey meat?

The bones indicated a tiny animal but lack of a common language got in the way of a correct identification.

The best the young and rather embarrassed student acting as translator could manage was “mouse.” She reluctantly announced it with predictable and dire consequences to the spirit of international working-class solidarity.

Years later I was to discover just what that “mouse” was – strangely I discovered it in the fascinating natural history museum in Tring in Hertfordshire.

This video from Britain is called Edible dormice, Wendover Woods.

That Slovenian delicacy was the edible dormouse (Glis glis). The Romans loved to eat them too. They kept them in terracotta jars with wheat and honey and the little animals stuffed themselves to twice their normal size ready for roasting.

When I lived in Hertfordshire edible dormice made their home in my loft. They played noisily among the boxes and papers but I never tried to cook them.

The animal, looking just like a miniature squirrel, had been introduced by the multimillionaire naturalist Lionel Walter, the second baron Rothschild, at his country seat at Tring Park.

This 2017 video is called Strange Creatures: The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum, by Lita Judge (Author, Illustrator)

The Second Baron Rothschild has dinner with monkeys, live snakes round the banisters and a carriage drawn by zebras!

Rothschild used his great wealth to collect and import rare and exotic species from all over the world in what was once his very own private museum.

The building was built in 1889 to house his huge collection of mounted specimens and first opened to the public in 1892. The Rothschild family gave the museum and its contents to the nation in 1937. Today it is a branch of the Natural History Museum and open to the public.

Walter loved messing about with nature. He bred hybrids between zebras and horses and you can see the result, a stuffed hybrid foal on display at the museum.

He was frequently seen driving a zebra-drawn carriage into the local town.

Another great, or perhaps tiny, obsession of this curious baron was flea circuses and the Tring museum has an amazing collection of these strange phenomena.

Rothschild introduced many live exotic birds and animals into his Tring estate and, not surprisingly, many escaped and are now living locally or in some cases all over Britain.

That’s why today you can find a healthy population of dormice anywhere up to a hundred miles from Tring Park. From the six animals brought to Britain in 1902 there are now thousands making a nuisance of themselves all over the home counties.

Although dormice are regarded as a pest the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits certain methods of killing and taking dormice, and removing them may require a licence. The law isn’t very clear on whether you can cook and eat them.

The edible dormouse is the largest of all dormice, being up to seven inches long plus its five-inch bushy tail. It weighs up to five ounces but can stuff itself to twice that weight before hibernation or cooking.

Like a lizard the dormouse, when grabbed by the tail, can allow its skin to break easily and slide off the underlying bone, allowing it to escape. The exposed vertebrae then fall off and a stumpy tail regrows.

Edible dormice like to live among oak and beech woods. They particularly love old, well-established, apple orchards and feed mainly on berries, apples, and nuts. However, they are adaptable, and would also eat bark, leaves, and flowers.

They will also eat insects, beetles and other invertebrates, and even raid small birds’ nests for eggs.

Their primary predators are owls and foxes and also curious wild food fanatics who want to find out for themselves what the Romans and the Slovenians are making all that fuss about.

Edible dormice are extremely long-lived thanks to their seasonal dormancy with hibernation periods lasting between at six and eleven months. Researchers hypothesized that older animals should shorten their winter dormancy in favor of a reproductive advantage and confirmed this for both sexes in a database analysis: here.