Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Mediterranean Monk Seal: A Natural Treasure Worth Bringing Back

3 March 2022 – It may come as a surprise that Croatia, a tiny Slavic nation wedged in an unfamiliar corner of the atlas, is home to some of Europe’s most spectacular biodiversity. Within a relatively modest 56,594 km2, Croatia curates a complete collection of floral and faunal wonders, many of which are at critical risk of disappearing. None more so than the Mediterranean monk seal, the rarest seal on earth. 

Long before the time of Diocletian, the Mediterranean monk seal thrived amongst the sliver-shaped islands of the eastern Adriatic. Going back to the early 20th century, residents could observe these endearing pinnipeds congregating along the beaches of Southern Europe, North Africa, and Macaronesia. Regrettably, due to systematic hunting and increased human activity, the range of this once prosperous species has dwindled to only a few fragmented populations centered mainly around the Portuguese Island of Madeira, the west African peninsula of Cabo Blanco peninsula, and the Aegean Sea. However, as recently as 2021, monk seals sightings have been recorded in select locations throughout their former territory, including Croatia, providing conservationists with cautious optimism for the future of this maritime treasure.

Representing the sole member of the genus Monachus, Mediterranean monks are the rarest of the world’s 33 seal species. With an estimated global population of approximately 700, this once common coastal occupant has turned into Europe’s most critically endangered marine mammal. According to the IUCN, this species is classified as engangered, a classification last updated in 2015.

Alongside the Hawaiian monk seal, Mediterranean monks form an exclusive club within the Family Phocidae. While most members of this taxa have adapted to polar and subpolar climates, monk seals reside in more temperate regions, a trait that puts them in closer direct contact with humans. 

Much like the people who share their subtropical home, monk seals have a taste fish and octopi, diving up to 200 m to find the eight-legged delicacy. This mutual love of seafood has been listed as a contributing factor of monk seal population decline. Hungry seals are drawn to fishing nets and the catch within, often becoming ensnared and drowning in the process. According to the Eastern Adriatic Monk Seal Project website, up to 46% of sub-adult seal deaths can be attributed to such accidental drowning events. Deliberate killings could be to blame for up to 50% of deaths in adults, possibly because of competition with fishermen. In the face of these shocking figures, the need for further conservation efforts is abundantly clear. 

Prior to the industrial revolution and slightly after, open beaches were the main birthing ground for Mediterranean monk seals. Over the past century, due to increased tourism and industry along the coast, female monk seals have left their former pupping terrirory, instead seeking out undersea caves where they can give birth and rear pups without human disturbances. The 9–11-month gestation period contributes significantly to the delayed recovery of monk seal populations, with adults only baring only a single pup per reproductive cycle. 

Despite these threats, help is on the horizon. National governments and NGOs have taken action to repopulate regions where the pinnipeds have been wiped out. In Croatia, monk seals have been safeguarded under the Nature Protections Act since 2003, instating fines of 100,000 kuna to anyone caught killing a monk seal. Moreover, the Biom Association, one of Croatia’s largest nature conservation NGOs, has teamed up with partners from Greece, Montenegro, and Albania to create the previously mentioned Eastern Adriatic Monk Seal project. The goal of this collaboration is to identify suitable habitats as well as obstacles that obstruct the pathway towards possible reintroduction of the species. 

The case of the Mediterranean monk seal provides us with a stark reminder of the impact of human actions on the environment. Thanks in part to strong shows on environmental stewardship by local leaders, early indicators of seal population recovery are optimistic. However, these are only the first steps on the much broader issue of international systemic neglect of the natural world. Many consider Croatia a paradise on earth, but to coninue earning this title locals must protect all those who call it home, including those with flippers.

Lifestyle: For more, check out our lifestyle section.  

Monday, 14 February 2022

Ancient Wells of Rajčica Valley, Inland Dalmatia's Hidden Wonder

February 14th, 2022 - While most tourists tend to gravitate towards the coastline, there are many hidden gems to discover in inland Dalmatia. Meet the wells of Rajčica valley, a magical place that looks as if it came straight out of a fantasy novel

Less than an hour’s drive from Split, in the rugged karst landscape of the Klis hinterland, you’ll stumble upon an extraordinary site. Known as Rajčica, the valley near Nisko village is home to a cluster of 10 ancient wells.

And when we say ancient, it’s actually a bit hard to pinpoint the moment in time when the wells were built. They are commonly referred to as Roman wells, some believe they're from the Illyrian times, and it’s also said they date to late Middle ages, namely the 13th or 14th centuries.

Whatever the case, there’s a certain mystical quality to the picturesque site; it appears to be timeless. The wells are all alike in size and design; they’re closely spaced, each encircled by a dry stone wall and fitted with stone steps descending to the water surface.

Three of the ten wells are shrouded by greenery and have a lower water level, making them somewhat harder to spot. Since the site is located in a valley, heavy rain will often leave the area flooded; during summer droughts, the water level drops.

It’s unknown whether there are any underground rivers in the area, or if the wells are mainly getting water from precipitation. Nestled among the wells is a small pond where the cattle roaming the area often comes to drink. 


The name of this wondrous site is another mystery that remains unsolved. Why Rajčica valley? The name literally translates to tomato in Croatian, but it’s believed to be more likely to refer to the place being a paradise in nature (raj = paradise, heaven). Finally, there are sources that claim the toponym originates from a family name that had a historical presence in the area (the valley of the Rajčić).

The wells of Rajčica used to be a seldom visited site, hidden away in a somewhat inaccessible location where one would have to fight their way through the thicket to get to the untouched clearing.


Rajcica valley / YouTube screenshot

These days, it’s more visitor-friendly. Backed by EU funding, Klis Municipality first had a forest road restored that connected the nearby villages of Brštanovo, Nisko and Matase, and which also doubles as an access road to Rajčica valley.

In a more recent part of the project, they had a picnic site built near the ancient wells. As of late 2021, there are seating areas, a grill, and even a balota rink as a nod to one of Dalmatia’s favourite pastimes. 

raj-4-1024x683.jpgPicnic area /

Rajčica valley gained in popularity since it was touched up a bit, especially as the pandemic drove more people to forgo urban destinations and spend time in nature instead. It’s not overcrowded yet, so if you happen to be looking for trip ideas, it just might be the perfect moment to visit the mystical wells before they become too popular among the locals and tourists alike. 


Thursday, 16 September 2021

You Can Choose the Croatian Tree of 2021 Among 13 Candidates

September 16, 2021 - The promotion of biodiversity and natural resources are the main goals of the competition for the Croatian Tree in 2021. It is up to you, as part of the competition, to choose your favorite and give it your vote, and this year you can choose from as many as 13 candidates from all parts of Croatia.

Each of the nominated trees has its own history and interesting story, and the one with the most votes will represent Croatia at the international competition European Tree in 2022, reports Turističke Priče.

This year's candidates for Croatian Tree of 2021 are:

  1. Bricin oak (pedunculate oak - Quercus robur) from the Lonjsko polje Nature Park
  2. A friend (oak medunc (oak) - Quercus pubescens) from the island of Krk
  3. A century-old giant in the heart of Slavonia (mammoth - Sequoia gigantea) from Slatina
  4. The last lady of the Podgorica park (sycamore plane tree - Platanus x acerifolia) from Podgorač
  5. Chapel (huge thuja - Thuja plicata) from the Brick Arboretum
  6. Ruđer Bošković's cypress (ordinary cypress - Cupressus sempervirens) from Mlini
  7. Konavle plane tree in Pridvorje (plane tree - Platanus) from Pridvorje
  8. Papuk old oak (sessile oak - Quercus petraea) from Papuk Nature Park
  9. Majkovski gigantic oak (oak medunac (oak) - Quercus pubescens) from Majkovo
  10. Brijuni old olive (olive - Olea europaea) from the Brijuni National Park
  11. Old mother (large linden - Tilia platyphyllos) from the Municipality of Lokve
  12. Eternal acacia (acacia - Robinia pseudoacacia) from Pačetin
  13. Guardian of the monastery shade - cypress in the garden of the Hvar Franciscan monastery (cypress - Cupressus sempervirens horizontalis) from the island of Hvar.

You can vote until September 30 via the official website of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, which will nominate the winner of the European competition on behalf of the Republic of Croatia as the national coordinator of the competition.

The winner of the European Tree of the Year competition is symbolically proclaimed in the run-up to World Forest Day on 21 March each year, and the proclamation ceremony is traditionally held in Brussels. Let us remind you that last year's winner and Croatian representative in Europe was the palm tree ''the oldest medulinka''.

The aim of the Tree of the Year competition is to promote biodiversity and natural resources across Europe. The competition seeks to promote individual trees and their significance in the natural and cultural heritage of the people who care for them, which require our care and protection in the future.

The basis of this competition is the story of the tree itself, which shows the importance of trees for the local community and their connection with the inhabitants of the area. The purpose is ultimately to raise public awareness of the need to preserve trees as a valuable natural resource important for human life, and especially because of the increasingly pronounced climate change.

The Public Institution for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County invites all citizens to participate in the process of public voting for the winner of the competition and the promotion of the competition, all together to contribute to the protection and preservation of natural values. which the Republic of Croatia has at its disposal.

Voting instructions

  • Voting can be accessed directly via the LINK and the official website of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.
  • Only one candidate of your choice, by confirming a click on the website and only once from the same computer, laptop, or mobile device, is allowed to vote.
  • Voting runs until  September 30, 2021,  at  12:00 AM.
  • From  27 September 2021  until the date of the announcement of the winner of the Croatian Tree 2021 competition on 15 October 2021, the voting results will not be visible.
  • Upon completion of the voting and processing of the received data, the winner of the competition will be solemnly announced via the online platform.

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 20 April 2020

First Summer Habitat for Bats Created in Lonjsko Polje Nature Park

ZAGREB, April 20, 2020 - The first bat habitat has been created in the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, and it meets all the criteria for being listed as an internationally important bat shelter according to EUROBATS's Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats.

Warmer weather brings about an increase in the number of insects bats feed on, so after their winter sleep bats start migrating to their summer habitats.

Bats will now for the first time come to their new habitat on the souvenir shop of the visitors' centre in Krapje. Since bats, besides forests and caves, also inhabit old houses made of natural materials, they had started to inhabit the walls of the souvenir shop four years ago.

Seeing as they impact the hygiene of the area, Lonjsko Polje Nature Park experts suggested that a bat habitat be installed. The solution builds on good practice in bat conservation worldwide. Two oak habitats with three chambers each were installed for bats on the wooden facade of the souvenir shop.

"Due to the coronavirus pandemic, bats have been unnecessarily stigmatised in the past few months. Bats in Croatia cannot transmit the virus to humans, and they are of great value for the ecosystem," Valerija Hima, expert manager at Lonjsko Polje Nature Park Public Institution, said on the occasion of International Bat Appreciation Day on April 17.

International Bat Appreciation Day is observed to inform the public about the importance of this protected species. Bats eat several hundreds of mosquitoes daily, contributing to the ecological balance by reducing the number of insects. Some rare bat species help to pollinate plants. There are about 1,400 bat species around the world and they live in nature, but also in urban areas, parks, gardens and buildings.

More nature news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Romanian Lynx Released in Risnjak National Park

Doru has arrived at the Risnjak National Park, whose gorgeous forests will be his new home. It is the first of the four lynxes to be settled in Croatia as part of the international LIFE Lynx project, reports Jutarnji List on May 5, 2019.

The project aims to prevent the extinction of the lynx population in the Dinarides, which will be achieved by settling fourteen lynxes in Croatia and Slovenia over the next five years. The local community is small and isolated, and mating among close relatives threatens its survival. The only solution is the colonisation with new animals.

“We are delighted that, after many years of preparations, we have welcomed this important event for the preservation of Croatian biodiversity. In the late 19th century, lynxes disappeared from our forests, but hunters and foresters brought them back in 1973. Now it is up to us to continue with the fight to preserve these beautiful beasts,” said Tomislav Gomerčić from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb.

The project of the settling of lynxes in Croatia is carried out by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Zagreb, the Karlovac Polytechnic and the BIOM association, with the support of the Risnjak National Park and the Nature of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County public institution.

Doru, a four-year-old male, weights twenty-one kilograms and was caught in late February in the Romanian forests. He spent two months in quarantine to ensure he did not transmit infectious diseases to the new habitat.

“We are glad that the among the proposed names, the people have selected Doru, which in Romanian means ‘necessary, desired.’ His name thus best describes the importance of this lynx for our population and at the same time represents an act of gratitude to our Rumanian partners,” said Miljenko Gašparac, director of the Risnjak National Park.

In order for Doru to arrive safely in Croatia, special transport was organised. “Since we are an institution with great experience in transporting various animal species and participating in a number of nature conservation projects, we are glad to have been able to assist with the transport of the lynx from Romania,” said Damir Skok, director of the Zagreb Zoo.

Among the few who attended the release of Doru were Primorje-Gorski Kotar County prefect Zlatko Komadina, president of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar Hunting Association Josip Malnar and representatives of hunting associations who expressed their support for this project.

“Doru’s movements will be followed by a telemetry collar which uses satellite to determine the location of the animal and sends us the coordinates. We hope that the genetic analysis next season will confirm that Doru has ensured the survival of our lynx population,” said Ivana Selanec from the BIOM association.

Due to the lifestyle of the lynx, it is difficult to determine the number of animals living in the region precisely, but it is estimated that between 40 and 60 animals live in Croatia and only about 20 in Slovenia.

Translated from Jutarnji List.

More news about the national parks can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Vis Archipelago Enters UNESCO Global Geopark Network

“It is official! The Vis Archipelago Geopark is now a member of UNESCO's Global Geopark Network! We congratulate and thank everyone who has contributed in any way to this project. We are sure this is just the beginning of a fantastic and beautiful story for the island of Vis and its archipelago,” wrote the Komiža Town Tourist Board on its Facebook page, reports Jutarnji List on April 18, 2019.

The Global Geopark Network is a UNESCO network of geoparks comprised of areas whose geological and geomorphological heritage makes them locations of international significance. Until now, the Papuk Nature Park was the only location in Croatia with such status.

Following a suggestion by the National Commission for UNESCO Global Geoparks, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy filed an application for the establishment of the Vis Archipelago Geopark in 2017. The initiative for the establishment of the geopark was first given by the Croatian Geological Institute, together with the towns of Vis and Komiža. The report was prepared by a working group headed by Jakša Božanić, with Tvrtko Korbar, Joško Božanić, Josip Belmarić and Dalka Zanka as members.

The area of Vis archipelago is a significant zone of the Adriatic Sea were some 220 million years ago major changes occurred through the propagation of diapirs, masses of searing deep ancient salts, which elevated sediment plates formed by the petrification of sand and organism shells. The summits of this magmatic penetration are nowadays the islands of Jabuka, Brusnik, Biševo and Palagruža, as the geologically oldest island of the Adriatic which, just like the island of Brusnik, continues to rise under the influence of tectonic activity.

The Vis archipelago includes seven areas protected by the Nature Protection Act in several different categories: in addition to the islets of Brusnik and Jabuka, they include Blue Cave, Medvidina Cave, Ravnik island and its cave, and Stiniva Cove.

The establishment of the Vis Archipelago Geopark will contribute to raising awareness about the importance of protecting geological and geomorphological heritage, as well as recognising geo-tourism as part of a unique tourist offer.

More info about the Vis Archipelago can be found at its official page.

Translated from Jutarnji List.

More Vis island news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Citizens Called to Vote on Name for Lynx to Be Released on Risnjak

ZAGREB, April 2, 2019 - As part of the LIFE Lynx project which has been launched to prevent the extinction of the lynx population in the Dinaric Alps, the BIOM association has called on citizens to vote on a name for the first of four lynxes to be released in the Risnjak National Park.

The lynx that will soon be released in Risnjak was captured in Romania on March 4 and there are currently five proposed names and the public is invited to vote for the best name at the following link,, BIOM said in a press release.

The LIFE Lynx project team in cooperation with the staff at the Risnjak National Park have proposed that the lynx be called Dora.

"The name Doru in Romanian means 'needed' and this lynx certainly is needed for the Croatian lynx population. The Romanian name has been suggested as a sign of our gratitude to our Romanian colleagues and experts who have donated the lynx through this project in an effort to expand Croatia's lynx population," the press release said.

The other proposed names are Grof, Furman, Max and Oskar.

Once the lynx is named and it will be released in Croatia, the animal's movements will be under surveillance via a long-range telemetry tracking collar which will be able to locate the lynx's several times during the day.

Croatia's endangered lynx population is being researched with the assistance of photo-traps set up in typical habitat for the animal and scientists have so far identified 40 adult animals in Croatia, BIOM said.

More news about Croatia’s national parks can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

New Lake Emerging on Border between Croatia and Slovenia

The preparatory works for the refurbishment of the barrier on the River Sutla have finally started. Once the dam is built, a new lake, the Vonar Lake, will emerge on the border between Croatia and Slovenia, reports on February 20, 2019.

This area already had a lake in the 1980s, but the project ultimately failed because of the lack of sewage treatment facilities. However, this time no such problems are expected. The access to the Vonar Lake will be possible from four municipalities, from Podčetrtek and Rogaška Slatina on the Slovenian side, and from Hum na Sutli and Zagorska Sela on the Croatian side. The lake will expand to a maximum of 100 hectares or one square kilometre, which is one third smaller than the famous Bled Lake in Slovenia, whose surface area is 1.45 square kilometres.

"With the Vonar Lake project, we will be protected from the flooding of the Sutla River, which will enable us to develop additional tourist facilities. Once the lake is filled, Podčetrtek and Rogaška Slatina will be able to record up to a million overnight stays, which will enable a better life for people on both sides of the border," says Mayor of Podčetrtek Peter Misja. In the municipality of Podčetrtek, tourists annually realise about 370,000 overnights, and in Rogaška Slatina about 250,000.

Before the emergence of the new lake, which is expected to occur in 2020 or 2021, a lot of work will have to be done, and renovation of the dam is just the first step. The barrier which is being restored is 40 years old. In the 1980s, the area next to the Sutla river already had a lake, which was considerably larger, covering as much as 190 hectares. But the water was of poor quality, so the stench spread in the area and the lake was emptied in 1988. Now there are sewage treatment devices available, such as the one which already exists in Hum on Sutli.

The renovation of the 12-metre high barrier is being managed by the Slovenian Waters Directorate and the Croatian Waters public company, as part of the European FRISCO 2.1 project, which will reduce the risk of flooding from the Sutla River on both sides of the river. At the Slovenian tender, the Nivo Eko company was selected as the contractor, and Croatia will soon choose its own contractor.

Last week, Nivo Eko started preparatory works. The total value of the barrier renovation is 1.67 million euro, of which 85% is provided by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund, within the European Regional Cooperation INTERREG VA initiative.

Translated from

More news about the cooperation between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Over 35,000 Birds Spotted in Kopački Rit During Winter Birdwatching

ZAGREB, February 5, 2019 - The latest winter bird count in Kopački Rit, which has recently ended, show that there were over 35,000 birds in that nature park in eastern Croatia during this winter.

This year's winter bird count was carried out by the park's staff and the Croatian Society for Bird and Nature Protection.

The local staff said that mallards and greater white-fronted geese were the most numerous birds in the park. Also, great cormorants and greylag geese were spotted.

In 1993, Kopački Rit was added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

Four more Croatian locations were entered into this list: Lonsko Polje Nature Park, Vransko Jezero Nature Park, the delta of the River Neretva and the Crna Mlaka fishponds.

The results of the winter bird count were presented on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, observed annually on 2 February.

More news on the Kopački Rit can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Animal Friends Call for Establishing Animal Protection Inspectorate

ZAGREB, February 4, 2019 - The association called Animal Friends Croatia on Monday released a list of about 45 high-profile cases of animal torture and killing in 2018, stressing that it is necessary to establish an animal protection inspectorate and adopt an animal protection law.

This nongovernmental organisation said in a press release that misdemeanour and criminal offences committed against animals in 2018 hadn't increased in number compared to 2017, however information about these cases has become more accessible to the public which has led to growing awareness of the necessity to prevent and punish these misdeeds.

"In addition to cases of sadistic abuse against animals, they are often suffering and dying due to human irresponsibility or attempts to get rid of unwanted litters by drowning, suffocating, burying them alive and other brutal methods," said Ivana Lunka of the "Animal Friends Croatia" association.

She added that only an animal protection law could possibly lead to the reduction of animal abuse incidence.

The NGO also advocates the regulation of compulsory sterilisation and follow-ups on micro-chipped animals and punishment of perpetrators of animal abuse.

"Even though procedures prescribe fines from 50,000 kuna to 80,000 kuna for misdemeanour offences, fines for animal abusers are still low. Criminal law prescribes jail terms of up to one year for animal abusers, however, the courts in most cases deliver conditional sentences," the association underscored.

Animal Friends is a non-profit organisation, founded in 2001 with the aim to promote animal protection and animal rights as well as veganism, as ethical, ecological and healthy lifestyle.

More news on the protection of animals in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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