Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Pula Aquarium Gets New Resident Which Changes Own Gender

August the 16th, 2022 - The Pula Aquarium, known for its efforts in conservation and the rescue and rehabilitation of all sorts of Adriatic marine lifeforms, has a new and very interesting resident which can change its own gender every eight years.

As Morski writes, over more recent days, the much loved Pula Aquarium presented to the public the third largest fish of its future tropical lineup, a Humphead wrass named Napoleon (Cheilinus undulatus), the largest bony fish which naturally lives on coral reefs.

The Humphead wrasse is an unusual looking fish which stands out for both its colour and its size, and it got its name from the large hump on its head that resembles Napoleon Bonaparte's hat - hence the name.

What is rather remarkable about this fish, is the fact that after the eighth year of its life, it changes its gender from female to male, and during this sex change, the colour of the body also changes - from orange-red to dark blue-green. This species is extremely important for the health of coral reefs because it feeds on an animal known as the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), which eats coral and given the chance, destroys these gorgeous reefs.

Humphead wrasse are a very widespread Indo-Pacific species, they reach an impressive body size of up to 2.2 meters and a weight of 191 kilograms with a lifespan of up to 32 years. It is quite a rare fish, but despite that, it is still unfortunately hunted for its tasty meat, and according to the IUCN, it is now considered an endangered species as a result of that. Due to overfishing, their population has decreased by a worrying 50 percent in the last 30 years alone, Aquarium Pula explained when discussing their new resident, Napoleon.

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Friday, 15 July 2022

Gebruder Weiss Continuing Activities to Protect Croatian Noble Pen Shells

July the 5th, 2022 - Croatian noble pen shells are a seriously endangered species, with this beautiful form of life being forced into peril across the entire Mediterranean since a disease took hold back in 2016. Efforts to preserve them here in Croatian waters are well and truly underway.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, during the height of the scorching Croatian summer season, it's more important than ever to warn people of the challenges and potential dangers facing the ecosystem of the Adriatic Sea, which is extremely rich in different plant and animal species, but also extremely sensitive due to its relative shallowness and natural position.

Mass tourism and irresponsible human behaviour have led to the fact that today, numerous species in the Adriatic have been declared endangered, are strictly protected or have been declared to be rare species and as such are protected by international treaties in addition to Croatian laws. Among them are mammals such as bottlenose dolphins or Mediterranean seals, various species of turtles, sea urchins, crabs and fish, as well as shellfish, the most famous of which is the Croatian noble pen shell, a frequent victim of illegal fishing by tourists.

Aware of the growing need to protect plant and animal species in their natural environment, the multinational company Gebrüder Weiss renewed its cooperation with the Aquarium in Pula, where with the support of the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, the ''Noble Sanctuary'' was built - an innovative space where Croatian noble pen shells, a legally protected species of bivalve mollusc, are protected with the aim of restoring the condition of this native population.

The Pula Aquarium's ''Noble Sanctuary'' is currently the only institution responsible for keeping critically endangered young and adult noble penshells in ex-situ conditions in the Republic of Croatia. This continues the socially responsible cooperation between Gebrüder Weiss and the Pula Aquarium.

"The project of preserving the most endangered Adriatic endemic species is extremely important to us, and we want to return these precious Croatian noble pen shells to our waters. Unfortunately, man's harmful impact on nature and the environment is increasingly visible, and there's now no time left to wait - we're all being called to action. At Gebrüder Weiss, we foster a policy of sustainable and socially responsible business and participate in numerous environmental actions to reduce environmental pollution and work to better influence the development of biodiversity in different parts of the world," said Barbara Bujacic, the director of Gebruder Weiss Croatia.

"We're extremely pleased that the important project dedicated to the preservation of the Croatian noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) in the Adriatic Sea is continuing through cooperation with Gebruder Weiss, and that with joint efforts, we're able to provide the necessary infrastructure to save this species from extinction. To date, we've managed to help numerous young individual pen shells to find their safe haven. With further studies and invested effort, we're sure that we'll manage to achieve the ultimate goal - the successful reproduction of these noble pen shells under quarantine conditions and the successful breeding of their descendants for the purpose of the repopulation of this species in the wild," said Marija Aleksandra Bel Dajkovic, the head of the Pula Aquarium's expert department.

This, otherwise the largest Adriatic shellfish remaining, enriches the coast and keeps the sea clean.

Since the autumn of 2016, the noble pen shell has become even more endangered. A newly discovered parasite, Haplosporidium pinnae, spread intensively throughout the Mediterranean Sea and killed over 99 percent of all noble pen shells in the world, and only about twenty living adults managed to get rid of this parasite and developed the proper resistance to its devastating influence.

New scientific discoveries stimulated by intensive international cooperation have facilitated and improved the maintenance of noble pen shells under strictly controlled conditions.

With the aim of long-term preservation of this sensitive species, the Pula Aquarium, in cooperation with the LIMIA laboratory and the Institute for the Conservation of Seas and Marine Sciences IMEDMAR-UCV in Spain, carried out a project of genome sequencing of the noble pen shells' DNA in a completely non-invasive way. The sequenced genome will help with the further understanding of this species in future research.

Croatian noble pen shells are also the largest Adriatic shellfish and an indicator of the cleanliness of the sea. It is the most famous Mediterranean endemic species and is found at all sea depths along the coast, and it most often lives on sandy and muddy seabeds full of marine flowering plants, from whose organic matter it feeds. In shallower seas, noble pen shells can filter up to 2 thousand litres of water per day in order to feed on phytoplankton. Since it is a hermaphrodite, it doesn't need either the sperm or eggs of any other shellfish individuals in order to reproduce - it releases both and thus fertilises the larvae on its own, which then develop independently in the sea.

In order for this species to continue to develop, grow and reproduce more quickly, live food cultivation was established in the sanctuary and cooperation with Croatian and international institutions was strengthened. Currently, the Pula Aquarium has ten young Croatian noble pen shells found in the period from October 2021 to June 2022 at the locations of Mali Losinj, the Brijuni National Park, Plavnik island and near Rovinj.

Guided by the goals of sustainable development and care for the community and the environment, Gebruder Weiss plans to continue with activities related to the protection of the biological diversity of the Adriatic Sea.

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Sunday, 12 June 2022

Friend of the Sea Certificate to be Given to Beloved Pula Aquarium

June the 12th, 2022 - The much loved Pula Aquarium is set to be handed the prestigious Friend of the Sea certificate in just a few days.

As Morski writes, the Pula Aquarium will receive the prestigious "Friend of the sea" certificate of self-sustainability from the World Sustainability Organisation on Friday, June the 17th, 2022.

The main goal of the World Sustainability Organisation is to encourage the development of companies in a sustainable direction, and by receiving the "Friend of the sea" certificate, Pula Aquarium has very clearly shown that it is well and truly committed to social responsibility and active involvement in breeding programmes for endangered species, all to preserve wild populations of various marine animals and marine ecosystems through their own business.

In addition to its core activities, the Pula Aquarium directly contributes to the protection of nature and sensitive and endangered marine species, which is why it has been recognised by national and international institutions, primarily for carrying out activities to protect sea turtles and other reptiles, not to mention the critically endangered noble pen shells, the population of which across the Mediterranean is dwindling.

The number of living noble pen shells in the Croatian Adriatic is believed to stand at a mere twenty, with hopes that there are more to be found yet.

The Pula Aquarium also indirectly contributes to the community itself by raising public awareness and restoring habitat and biodiversity. In addition to education, the main goals of the entity are to ensure animal welfare, nature and energy, along with the professional development of employees in each business segment.

With its own development, this aquarium follows many different global trends and carefully selects raw materials in order to use the most acceptable solutions for the environment and sustainability, which are also the reasons for the recognition of the Pula Aquarium as an example of good practice.

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Saturday, 17 July 2021

Injured Turtle in Korčula Bay: Rescued, Treated, Ready For New Life

July 17, 2021 -  An injured turtle in Korčula Bay sparked immediate action by locals and vets, seeing the turtle being saved and getting a second chance.

Like many other places, towns, locations, and neighborhoods, Korčula also has groups on social media to ease communication among users who share the same place of daily life. Friday afternoon saw residents of Korčula have a big heart, and despite might being stereotypically perceived as laid back, chilled chaps (as for every Mediterranian-culture impacted people), they were quick to act when needed.

A user under the name Antoni Ja, one of the members of the FB group Oglasnik otoka Korčule (Korčula Island Message Board), reported on a 20 kilo turtle floating in the sea in Žrnovska Banja. Floating, the keyword.

„Please do something, so it doesn't get hit by a speedboat or some maniac“, said Antoni Ja.

Other users immediately started to worry if the turtle was injured, and the name of a local vet Vilović was suggested as an address to report the issue.

Sure enough, Vilović examined the turtle, and the 20-kilo turtle turned out to be over 50 kilos. Not quite often seen in shallow waters, but nevertheless a normal turtle size in the Adriatic sea.

„It had a head wound, most likely from the propeller. It is on its way to the Specialist in Split by catamaran“, briefly commented Vilović.

Indeed, as the photo on the FB group published by Ana Jurić shows, the turtle was on its way to Split.

„Kudos to the vet and the guys that organized all this, and the turtle is huge!“ wrote Jurić.


Zrnovska Banja where the turtle was spotted floating © Visit Korcula

Dr. Mario Gavranović, head of the VET VISION clinic in Split, confirmed that the turtle arrived on Friday night.  „It should arrive in an hour or two. The propeller injury is an old wound and I will first have to examine it to see what is the proper way of treatment“, said Dr. Gavranović.

When contacted on Saturday morning to provide more information on what happened to the turtle, dr. Gavranović wasn't in his office. As confirmed by Aquarium Pula, the reason was Gavranović took the turtle to the aquarium which also has a Marine turtles rescue centre.

"The turtle is alright, on its way and should be in the Centre around midday", briefly confirmed Aquairum Pula.

Pula's rescue centre has been active for around 17 years (with turtles being strictly protected in Croatia since 1995 as one of the most endangered animal species), and Morski.hr wrote in 2019 how the centre cured over 100 turtles. 


One of the many rescued turtles by Marine turtles rescue centre © Aquarium Pula

Croatia loves its animals

With vets displaying their expertise, locals on Korčula once again demonstrated their compassion and big heart when it comes to animals. And that compassion is not different from the general mood in Croatia.

With the nourishing of the recently deceased stork Malena being the most famous story of love between Croatians and animals, there were plenty of other examples too. From rejoicing every time whales or dolphins are spotted, when sheep visited the Zadar mall or when a Croatian reality TV star Jasmin Kunišinac raised a fox.

Unfortunately, Croatia also records cases of animal cruelty, such as the poisoning of cats and dogs, and each time Croatian public met it with a fierce backlash and anger for such acts.

Despite quite often arguing about everything imaginable and unimaginable, Croatians also express solidarity with each other when things get tough. For instance, many cities canceled their new year celebrations and relocated the money to Petrinja following its earthquake, as well as Croatian entrepreneurs too. But, many more instances of help were noted over the years.

Learn more about Korčula on our TC page.

For more about animals in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Pula Aquarium and Valencia Institute Cooperate for Noble Pen Shells

February the 18th, 2021 - The noble pen shell, about which much has been written over recent years as they become more and more rare to come across, has seen an institute in Valencia and the Pula Aquarium, known for rescuing marine animals, team up to protect them.

As Morski writes, the Pula Aquarium has recently announced that in the future it will cooperate with the Institute of Environment and Marine Science of the University of Valencia (Instituto de Investigacion en Medioambiente y Ciencia Marina Universidad Catolica de Valencia San Vicente Martir (IMEDMAR-UCV)), ie, with dr.sc. Jose Tenom and Ph.D. Jose Rafael Garcia-March on the preservation of the beautiful and ever illusive noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) in strictly controlled conditions (ex situ).

The mass mortality of these strictly protected and endangered noble pen shells began over in Spain back in 2016, and this sad situation has unfortunately also been witnessed here in Croatia, with some people even removing them from the sea to take photos with them, an act that is illegal and as such punishable.

The Spanish authorities reacted quickly to the issue they noted back in 2016 and an expert and scientific community was organised to preserve the shells. In addition, back during the middle of 2019, the Pula Aquarium, entirely on its own initiative, will start working on the conservation of the last specimens of this protected shell (with the permission of the competent Ministry), once again in ex situ conditions.

The cooperation between IMEDMAR-UCV and the Pula Aquarium is important for keeping the noble pen shell alive. As stated, the Pula Aquarium is no stranger to taking care of life in the Croatian Adriatic, rescuing and rehabilitating many a loggerhead turtle. Accordingly, it will contribute in this project with diligent work and the continuous improvement of techniques and methods, while IMEDMAR-UCV has all of the specific knowledge and experience in the field of larval and juvenile noble pen shell care.

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Thursday, 27 August 2020

VIDEO: Fish With Venom 1200 Times More Potent Than Cyanide in Istria

As Morski/Zana Moslavac writes on the 26th of August, 2020, the new tropical sea exhibition at the Pula Aquarium in Istria, which opened after several months of preparation, is inhabited by an interesting and well-known animal: the white-spotted puffer (Arothron hispidus). It is interesting that it belongs to the family of tetraodontidae, and all members of this group have one common characteristic: they all have four ''plates'' in the mouth that they use as teeth.

This species naturally inhabits areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans where its sharp flat teeth are used to crush prey with a solid exoskeleton. It is known for its ability to inflate its body, which it achieves by ingesting water or air through the mouth into a small chamber near the stomach. This ability is used when it is endangered, making it difficult for a predator to swallow it.

In addition, members of this family are considered more poisonous, that is, they are among the second most poisonous vertebrates in the world. The poison tetrodotoxin, which is much more dangerous than cyanide itself, is not found in certain organs of these animals. An antidote doesn't currently exist, but not even that fact stopped humans from eating these fish. Japan and Korea traditionally prepare delicacies from "fugu" puffers, provided that the fish is prepared exclusively by specially trained chefs who know how to properly separate the meat from the organs which may contain the potent substance. Unfortunately, poorly prepared meat fish of this kind results in several deaths per year. For that reason, the Japanese emperor was forbidden from consuming this unusual and potentially dangerous delicacy.

''Arothron hispidus arrived at the Pula Aquarium two years ago, when we bought one from the "Globo Divulgazione Scientifica" science association from Trieste, Italy, where it was part of an exhibition of dangerous marine animals. We placed it in our tropical marine setting, but as that aquarium room was intended for a complete reconstruction, the fish spent the last few months in aquarium quarantine. Obsolete steel pools have been replaced by modern, acrylic pools, which have arrived completely finished. They are monoblock pools in which tropical sea fish have been placed which cannot share space with other smaller tropical fish,'' said Zarko Jakovic.

Apart from the tropics, one type of puffer fish can be seen in the Mediterranean today. Namely, what is commonly known as the silver-cheeked toadfish (Lagocephalus sceleratus), a newcomer from the Red sea, was subsequently granted the status of an invasive species due to its extremely high reproductive rate and non-selectivity in feeding. It also causes significant negative consequences for fishing, such as tearing nets.

Watch the video of Istria's potent resident below:

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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

More Than 160 Loggerhead Turtles Have Passed Through Pula Aquarium

As Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 1st of January, 2020, once upon a time, in the middle of winter, turtles would arrive at Pula aquarium's turtle recovery centre cold and sick, and today in the winter, turtles with injuries to their limbs caused by their entanglement in nets, plastic waste and various types of marine waste arrive throughout the winter.

All this speaks volumes about the fact that there is more and more garbage being dumped in the Adriatic sea, notes Aleksandra Bel Dajković, the manager of Pula aquarium.

Just a few days ago, a very small and thin turtle in a seriously bad condition arrived at Pula aquarium and is currently being housed in the Sea Turtle Recovery Centre. The turtle was named Free Wings, after the boat on which the crew found the animal caught up in a net in which a rope, various pieces of plastic and a branch got tangled.

As has since been learned from the manager of Pula aquarium, Aleksandra Bel Dajković, because of all that waste she has been dragging behind her body for who knows how long, her right right fin was necrotic and she was completely exhausted. Fortunately, as soon as she received an infusion, she was immediately energised and Pula aquarium's staff are confident that she will recover very quickly at their recovery centre.

The turtle has already begun to eat on her own, she especially loves sardines and squid, and the wound on her fin has been cleaned with antiseptic every day, with special honey being added to it for recovery, Bel Dajković who cares for with two other loggerhead turtles along with Free Wings. The two other turtles are Marvin and Ryan, who are both young. Four such young individuals who had been recovering at Pula aquarium have already been successfully returned back to sea following recovery.

Marvin was found caught in a net with a large open neck wound, while Ryan was found tangled up in waste. Due to a significant injury to his fin, he was recently amputated in Zagreb, but he is also now recovering well.

The Sea Turtle Recovery Centre, as Bel Dajković explained, was officially formed back in 2006 and co-financed by Pula aquarium, but turtles were being admitted for recovery even before that date. In all, more than 160 turtles have passed through it so far, and most of them have successfully recovered and been returned back to sea.

''It's interesting how the situation has changed over the years. Once upon a time, large individuals came to us, and now there are more and more young ones. On the other hand, in the middle of winter, the turtles that arrived were cold and unwell, and today in winter, turtles arrive with injuries to their limbs caused by their entanglement in nets, plastic, and various types of marine waste,'' she said.

Otherwise, sea turtles are among the most endangered animal species and are therefore protected by numerous national and international regulations. They have been strictly protected in Croatia since 1995. Despite their protection, sea turtle populations are declining dramatically throughout the world, and so are the Croatian turtles. It has therefore proved necessary to establish sea turtle recovery centres worldwide.

The Pula Sea Turtle Recovery Centre operates within Pula aquarium and cares for injured sea turtles from across the Croatian Adriatic. On arrival at the centre, each turtle undergoes a thorough examination to determine its health, assess the severity of any injuries, or identify any disease. The turtles located in the centre are housed in pools with flowing seawater maintained at a temperature suitable for their recovery (25 °C).

The daily care for the sea turtles located in the centre consists of regular feeding, the cleaning of their pools and thorough health checks. The turtles are fed on a daily basis, usually with sardines. Their recovery takes place under the supervision of a veterinarian who prescribes the treatment required. After recovery, and before being released back into the sea, the turtle is tagged. The tag contains the turtle's number, which allows the individual to be identified if found again and to compare their condition (weight, health) with previous data.

In addition to treatment and care, the activities of the centre are related to the education of the general public on turtles. One form of education is the public release of recovered sea turtles, which takes place every June on World Sea Turtle Day, and sometimes twice a year. This event has already grown into a traditional and very popular event with an increasing number of citizens and tourists participating every year.

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Sunday, 3 November 2019

Pula Aquarium: Rehabilitated Loggerhead Turtles to be Returned to Sea

As Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 2nd of November, 2019, back in December 2018, a loggerhead turtled who was later named Mery Fisher was found by locals from Korčula floating along close to the shoreline of the island. After a stay at the veterinary station in Split, she was transported to the Pula Aquarium, where she needed to be carefully hand-fed due to multiple head injuries.

The Sea Turtle Recovery Centre is organising an autumn release of the rehabilitated sea turtles at 14:00 on Monday. Two turtles will be released into the sea - Mery Fisher and Zoki, who will be released on the Verudela Peninsula, on the beach next to the Verudica lighthouse.

As we have sinced learned, a GSM transmitter for telemetric monitoring will be placed on the turtles in cooperation with the Department of Biodiversity of the University of Primorska in Koper, Slovenia, as part of the project "LIFE-EUROTURTLE, joint actions to improve the status of protection and conservation of European Union sea turtle populations".

Prior to its launch, representatives of the Pula Aquarium will present the rehabilitated turtles, describe their injuries and the course of their recovery, and will inform the public about turtle monitoring and the project's activities.

Otherwise, Zoki is a loggerhead turtle who arrived in the centre at the end of July. He was found floating helplessly in the sea off the island of Susak. He was first taken by Blue World staff and kept at its centre, and given that he was still floating, they decided to call the Pula Aquarium and arrange transportation to the Sea Turtle Recovery Centre.

Zoki was thus put aboard the Bišovo catamaran on the first of August and transported to Pula. It was then learned that he had an old armor injury that was completely healed and there were no major health issues. He weighed 15 pounds on arrival, and is estimated to be between ten and fifteen years old. After arriving at the centre in Pula, Zoki soon regained proper buoyancy, and within a few days he began to eat the food offered normally.

As previously mentioned, back in December 2018, Mery Fisher the loggerhead turtle was found by locals from Korčula floating along near the shore. After being lifted from the sea, they noticed multiple head injuries. She stayed for a short time at the veterinary station in Split, which by decision of the competent ministry serves as a first aid station for injured sea turtles.

After a few days, the turtle was moved to the Aquarium in Pula, where she was given further intensive veterinary care and special attention was paid to regular feeding. With regard to her head injuries, it was necessary to feed the animal manually, but only after openly opening her mouth (assisted feeding).

In June, Mery Fisher was moved to Brijuni National Park, where she is housed in a large swimming pool as part of the animal shelter. Her swimming and diving skills were monitored there and she was eventually able to feed on her own. At the same time, the large surface of the pool allowed for some kind of fitness training and proper preparation for her return to the sea. She was returned to the centre in Pula on October the 24th, 2019, for final examinations and a GSM transmitter was fitted.

If you come across an injured or dead sea turtle, it can be reported by calling 112.

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