Sunday, 1 August 2021

Stay Safe on Your Holiday: Croatian Wildlife and Marine Animals to Avoid

Aug 01, 2021 - Do not risk ruining your perfect holiday and learn about the potentially dangerous Croatian wildlife and marine animals you may encounter, albeit a small chance, during your trip to Croatia. Always remember: if it’s predictable, it’s preventable! Here’s a guide to potentially dangerous animals in Croatia, where they can be found, what to look out for, and what to do if you get attacked or bitten.

Snakes5D3A9644_1.jpg

Photo credit: Mario Romulić

There are currently 15 snake species that are known to inhabit Croatia, and only 3 of them are venomous. Two of these venomous snakes - karst meadow viper and common European adder - are generally considered harmless since their venom have low potency and do not pose a serious threat to normal and healthy humans. However, the horned viper has been linked to 4 fatal deaths in Croatia. Although these vipers exist throughout the country, they are mostly found in the coastal cities and stony mountains of Dalmatia. They can be identified by the distinctive zigzag pattern on their backs. The horned viper, locally known as poskok, has a horn on its snout where its name was derived from. Its body is usually gray, sometimes pinkish-grey, with a dark grey/black zigzag pattern from head to tail. Horned vipers are usually quiet but will attack when provoked. These snakes have also been reported to have the ability to jump at a distance of 5 feet and as high as 3 feet. On the other hand, the common European adders are mostly found on meadows and freshwater and river lowlands of the Sava, Drava, Mura and Danube. They are also found in mountainous areas such as Gorski Kotor. Meanwhile, the karst meadow vipers prefer higher altitudes so they are mostly found in the mountains of Dinara and Velebit.

What to do when you encounter a snake? Slowly back away from the creature - do not attempt to catch the snake or chase it away. It is also best to avoid tall grassy areas and if passing through one is unavoidable, wear sensible and protective footgear. Never stick your arms or legs into unknown, dark and hollow spaces or any rock, leaf and wood piles - these are snake's favourite hiding places! Lastly, always pay attention to your surroundings when climbing and hiking. For suspected snake bites, try to keep as still and calm as possible - a higher heart rate could cause the venom to spread faster. Tie a tourniquet from the bite towards the heart to delay the circulation of venom and seek medical assistance immediately!

BearsBrown_bear_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Marshmallow - https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmarschner/2728816091/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7080486

Croatia is full of forests and mountains, therefore, it makes an ideal home for the Croatian brown bear. It is highly unlikely to encounter them in established tourist attractions in Croatia but the risk goes higher around the mountainous regions of Gorski Kotar, Velebit, Lika, and even in the Biokovo and Mosor mountains of Dalmatia. Bears usually mind their own business and avoid humans, however, a mother bear with her cubs tends to attack any potential threats, even unprovoked. Nevertheless, only 3 bear attacks on humans in Croatia have been reported and all of them were non-fatal. 

To avoid accidentally encountering a bear, Ivor Kocelj, an official tour guide in Croatia suggests that during a hike, talking, listening to music, or even clapping allow bears to notice the human presence and flee in advance. If a bear is spotted from a distance and looked unprovoked, you may continue to observe it, in silence. If the bear is within close proximity, try to calm down, retreat in silence, avoid eye contact and wait for the bear to leave. Bears are attracted to food so minimize bringing food with a strong odour and store them properly. Also, never come close to a bear cub because mother bears are extremely protective. Lastly, ALWAYS follow the marked hiking trails - let the wild animals live undisturbed in their habitat!

Black Widow SpiderBlackWidow_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Camazine - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4809805

It is the most poisonous spider in Europe and is characterized by the distinctive red spots against its black back. In Croatia, they are found in the coastal areas of Istria, Dalmatia and Primorje. The spider's bite is reportedly almost painless with symptoms appearing a few hours later which can include spasms, immense pain and sometimes, paralysis. Even though the venom is poisonous, most healthy adults would not suffer any fatal effects but the children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are highly susceptible. Black widow spiders often live in bushes, under rocks and grassy areas so the reported cases of spider bites are usually from people who accidentally stepped on them while walking barefoot. Hence, it is always advisable to wear proper footwear when outdoors. For any suspected black widow spider bites, seek prompt medical assistance.

Scorpions1084px-Euscorpius_fg13_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Fritz Geller-Grimm - Vlastito djelo, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9854317

Few scorpion species are found in Croatia but the two most common species are the Euroscorpius Italicus and E. Germanus both of which are relatively harmless. Scorpions do not pose a serious threat to humans, however, a scorpion's venom may cause swelling, redness and itching around the area. The person may also experience severe pain, allergic reactions, tingling and numbness. These arachnids are mostly found in coastal, rather than continental, regions of Croatia. If stung by a scorpion, it is best to apply a cool compress on the affected area and a pain relief medication if needed. To be safe, have the bite checked by a medical professional, especially if it is on a child. Take note: scorpions are protected species in Croatia so do not kill them if you spot one!

TicksDog_tick_5148_1.jpgPhoto credit: By André Karwath aka Aka - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=131004

Ticks love wooded and grassy areas, as well as humid and warm environment - therefore, ticks can be found almost anywhere during spring and summer in Croatia. Most ticks in southern region of Croatia do not carry tick-borne illnesses. The ones who may transmit or cause infections such as Lyme disease, encephalitis and tick paralysis are active in May and June and are mostly found in forested regions of continental Croatia. To avoid getting bitten by these blood-sucking insects, it is best to wear full-length clothing and insect repellent especially during outdoor trips. If bitten and a tick is attached to your skin, grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible and pull it upward steadily using fine-tipped tweezers to safely remove the tick. Make sure not to leave any parts of the tick in your skin and clean the bite area, as well as your hands, with soap and water and rubbing alcohol. Remember to never crush a tick with your bare hands as it may transmit diseases. It is best to dispose a live tick in alcohol solution, place it in sealed container or flushing it down the toilet.

Sharks1080px-A_shortfin_mako_shark_swimming_in_an_aquarium.1_1.jpgPhoto credit: By 出羽雀台 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107209573

With rich marine biodiversity, numerous species of sharks are found in the Adriatic waters with only two species - Mako and Great White sharks - are deemed dangerous to humans. According to Shark Attack Data, since the 1900s, there have been 11 reported fatal shark attacks in Croatia - the latest of which took place in 1974 in Omiš. The last recorded non-fatal shark attack was in 2008 near Vis Island. Nonetheless, the attacks in the Adriatic sea are extremely rare so it is still very safe for swimmers, surfers and divers.

The best way to avoid a shark attack is to take extra precautions when going to the sea. For starters, avoid swimming too far away from the coastline and do not wear bright jewellery because sharks might confuse it for a glistening fish, a.k.a, shark food. If a shark happens to be nearby, try not to panic and swim away vertically without making too much movements and noise. If a shark ends up attacking you and you are not alone, it is best to stay in a defensive position (back-to-back) to avoid surprise lunges from sharks. It is impossible to outswim a shark so your best bet is to make the shark see you as a strong and credible threat by throwing a jab at the shark's most vulnerable areas - gills, eyes and snout. Targeting these areas can cause the shark to retreat. Sharks rarely attack but when they do, it can be severely dangerous, even fatal; so the surest way to prevent shark-related incidence is to steer clear from shark-infested areas.

Sea UrchinsSea_urchin_upside_down_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Lacen - Croatia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=248760

The presence of sea urchins is a sign of clean and unpolluted water, hence, it's no wonder that these spiky creatures are ubiquitous on the Adriatic Coast. Every tourist season, the public beaches in Croatia are often cleaned of sea urchins so most of them are found in secluded and natural beaches near the shores and around the rocks. Sea urchins are not poisonous but stepping on their spikes cause painful foot injury which can make the rest of your trip irritating and uncomfortable. Their spikes break easily and worse, they get stuck under the skin. The best way to prevent a sea urchin injury is to wear a pair of protective water shoes (warning: may trigger strong disapproval look from locals). If you accidentally stepped on a sea urchin, use tweezers to remove any spikes, although some will be too deep to be taken out. Afterwards, clean the affected area with soap and water but remember to leave it open and unbandaged. Use pain relievers if needed.

Jellyfish & Sea Anemone960px-20131206_Istanbul_018_1.jpgPhoto credit: By Mark Ahsmann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30241025

Jellyfish are gelatinous sea creatures mostly made up of water, thus, they do not have good movement control. These creatures mostly float and are carried by sea currents so their presence is detected from time to time in the Adriatic sea. Unfortunately, when jellyfish end up in Adriatic coast, they come in huge numbers so jellyfish related injuries go up as well. However, most of the stinging incidents occur when a human accidentally brushes across a jellyfish while swimming. The jellyfish that are found in the Adriatic sea come from cnidarian family of which contain a number of species that are poisonous. The long tentacles of jellyfish are able to pierce through human tissue where their poison is transferred. Sea anemones are also found in the Adriatic shores, especially, the cylinder anemone. This type of anemone is often found in shallow waters and unlike jellyfish, sea anemones are sedentary and are attached to seabeds and rocks where humans can easily step on them.

A jellyfish and anemone sting may cause searing pain or severe burning sensation in the affected area and redness and rashes may also appear. Sometimes, the area swells and gets blistered, too. Some people have been reported to develop severe symptoms including eczema, violent itching, and darkened skin pigmentation. In very rare cases, jellyfish venom can lead to anaphylactic shock causing serious health risks. Depending on the severity of the situation, the first aid for a jellyfish sting is to wash it with salt water (freshwater can intensify the pain), and wash the injured area with vinegar or alcohol because these can block the poison from releasing further. There are also medications that reduce swelling and itching but the best treatment option is to get the injured area checked by a medical professional. 

Important note: Dead jellyfish can still sting so never touch one with bare hands!

Weever Fish Trachinus_draco_Karpathos_1.jpegPhoto credit: By Roberto Pillon - http://www.fishbase.de/photos/thumbnailssummary.php?ID=1363#, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25931842

The greater weever, locally known as pauk, is the most commonly found weever fish in the Adriatic sea. Other species from this family include starry weever, lesser weever and spotted weever, all of which are very rarely found since they prefer deeper areas and only approach the shores during mating season in winter. The greater weever poses the biggest hazard to humans because they often swim in shallow waters. The weevers have spikes on their gills and dorsal fins where their poison is located. Most incidents including greater weevers happen due to fishermen's carelessness and lack of knowledge or when a swimmer steps on the fish accidentally in the shallow waters. The venom of weever fish brings unbearable pain within 15 to 30 minutes of contact and swelling. The most common reactions to weever venom include loss of consciousness, nausea, loss of sensation in the affected area, elevated heart rate and breathing difficulties. The first aid for weever fish poisoning starts with removing the remaining spikes and disinfecting the area with clean water and soap. Afterwards, soak the area at the highest temperature one can endure for at least half an hour while being careful not to cause burns on the skin. Poison from weever fish is believed to be volatile in heat so this step is highly advisable to delay the spread of the poison until medical help arrives.

In general, the diverse and beautiful Croatian wildlife is very safe as long as you keep proper distance and safety measures from the wild animals. It is highly unlikely for you to come across these wildlife dangers, except maybe for sea urchins, but it is always best to stay alert and observe necessary precautions when travelling in unfamiliar places. Get acquainted with the list of numbers and responders in Croatia you may need to contact in case of emergency. Have a safe travel and remember, watch where you step!

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Sunday, 16 May 2021

New Lynx Emil Arrived at Velebit Nature Park From Slovakia

May 16, 2021 - Great news for wildlife in Croatia, as the Velebit Nature Park welcomed a new lynx Emil. The wild cat came from Slovakia and thus joins nearly 40 other lynxes that inhabit the park. 

As turistickeprice.hr reports, Velebit Nature Park has become richer for one beautiful cat: Emil! The new lynx arrived from Slovakia and immediately rushed out of the transport box into the Velebit area. It's a lynx, the largest European cat, but the survival of this species in the Dinaric mountains is endangered due to inbreeding. After extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, the Dinaric lynx population was re-established in 1973 by the settlement of six animals from the Slovak Carpathians in Slovenia.

The adult male lynx was caught in the Slovak Carpathians and spent two months in quarantine to make sure he arrived in Croatia healthy and with the necessary antibodies to the rabies virus. It's out of the shipping box released on Apatišan, near Krasno. In accordance with the epidemiological measures, he was accompanied by a small number of spectators, among whom a special place was taken by students from the Elementary School Krasno.

‘‘Emil is the third lynx we are releasing in the Velebit area. Last year, in the Paklenica National Park, we released Alojzije, who established the terrain in the area of ​​the municipality of Sveti Rok, and the lynx Pina, whose fate we, unfortunately, do not know. Based on the data from the photo traps, we estimate that there are about 40 adult lynxes on Velebit, so we hope that Emil will not have any problems finding a partner’’, said the director of Velebit Nature Park, Ana Brkljačić.

All lynxes present today in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are descendants of these six lynxes. Nearly 50 years of breeding close relatives without contact with lynx from other populations, resulted in genetic disorders and the only solution for survival was the re-import of lynx from the Carpathians. This is exactly what the international team of experts gathered in the LIFE Lynx project, co-financed by the European Commission, is doing. In the last three years, he has been to Slovenia and Croatia, both inhabited by a total of 13 lynxes from Slovakia and Romania, and the first descendants of inhabited males and local females have already been recorded, thus stopping inbreeding.

The new lynx found a new home in the Velebit Nature Park, which is just one of the 12 natural parks in Croatia, and you can learn more about them in Total Croatia's Guide to National and Natural Parks in Croatia, HERE. Now you can find Total Croatia articles in your language!

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Friday, 18 October 2019

Beautiful Sea Angels Discovered Living in Croatian Adriatic

The Croatian Adriatic is one of the main draws for tourists, especially those coming from the rest of Europe, to the Croatian coast. While history, culture and gastronomy are of course all high on the list, as is the interior and continental part of the country in more recent times, the sparkling Adriatic is usually what seals the deal for the majority of visitors. But just how much do we really know about its inhabitants?

Over the summer, we've had various stories and some incredible footage of dolphins, sharks, a variety of sea snakes, jellyfish and slugs - all of which attracted a decent amount of attention, especially ''Moky'', the Mako shark that kept appearing along the Dalmatian coast, from Korcula to Makarska, posing for the cameras as he went.

It seems another creature that we previously didn't know lived in the Croatian Adriatic has now appeared, and it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale - the beautiful and tiny sea angel.

As Morski writes on the 18th of October, 2019, the miraculous little sea angel (Pneumodermopsis cfr. Paucidens) is a very small swimming snail that we did not know lives in the Croatian Adriatic until this very month, according to a report from Podvodni.hr.

The first sea angel was discovered, followed by entire schools of them, all close to Čiovo. Not much is known about this gorgeous-looking species at all other than the fact that many types of sea angel feed almost exclusively on what are known as ''sea butterflies'' and as previously stated, nobody realised that they lived in Croatian waters. Although we have not found them in the Adriatic so far, it doesn't necessarily mean that they were not there before, noted Podvodni.hr.

Otherwise, sea angels are hermaphrodites can grow up to five centimetres in length.

Watch a video of these fascinating creatures here:

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Sunday, 14 July 2019

Underwater Camera Near Šibenik Films Curious Sea Turtle

Sea turtles, alongside dolphins, are without a doubt some of the world's favourite marine animals, and thanks to live underwater cameras, such as the one in Šibenik, we have the opportunity to watch them and many other fish and marine life via the internet.

There are several underwater cameras set up along the Croatian coast which show live streams of the seabed, one of the most popular among them is the one set up near the historic and increasingly popular Dalmatian City of Šibenik.

As Morski writes on the 13th of July, 2019, this underwater camera, which is due to mark these three years since its placement in the coming days, captured a passing and very curious visitor early the other morning.

The curious turtle, more precisely a Loggerhead, swam up to the Šibenik camera and appeared interested in the camera, pausing on its way somewhere and appearing to inspect the device.

The Šibenik underwater camera has recently been connected to the YouTube service and manages to garner more than 11,000 views monthly, with an impressive total of 60,000 viewing minutes. In its work so far, it has recorded numerous fish species; including octopus, squid, numerous fallen fish, grebe birds diving for their lunch under the water, as well as divers who engage in the theft of precious Mediterranean Pen Shells, which are protected by law.

The placement of the underwater camera was initially realised thanks to the cooperation of the Šibenik Meteo Association and the Institute for Marine and Environmental Research of the Ruđer Bošković Institute with the financial assistance provided by the Tourist Board of the City of Šibenik.

Watch the live stream on YouTube here:

Watch the footage of the turtle who came up to check the camera out here:

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Friday, 12 July 2019

VIDEO: More Footage as Shark Appears in Waters Near Vir!

Another shark says hello to the camera after getting itself stuck in an area fenced off for swimmers near Vir.

The Mako shark which made itself somewhat famous in various places along the Dalmatian coast, from Makarska to the Korčula channel, to the Brač channel, captured the attention of many people. While those counting on tourist money weren't best pleased with the camera loving animal's timing, many were delighted to get to be able to see such a beautiful animal up close and personal, and capture video footage of it.

After the Mako shark, which appeared to be juvenile and healthy, what was suspected to have been a Blue shark appeared in the sea near Primošten, and very close to the shore for that matter. 

Experts quickly weighed in to try to stop the spread of ''Jaws-style'' propaganda, reminding everyone that the Mako shark in particular is a protected species and is highly unlikely to harm or even go anywhere near a swimmer. 

The experts talked about how the appearance of Mako sharks in the Croatian Adriatic was in fact an excellent thing, and that there was once an abundance of them before their population decreased significantly following the end of the Second World War.

After the sharks came snakes, with some amazing footage of the longest type of European snake making its way across the water and attempting to board and nearby boat in its quest for dry land. The expert stated that all snakes can swim, that the snake, which was likely in an overhanging tree, had probably fallen accidentally into the water. He reiterated just what the shark experts did - the snake will do all it can to avoid humans and is highly unlikely to bite.

Now, after an apparently snakeless, sharkless period, another shark has come to say hello to the cameras. This time in the sea near Vir.

As Index writes on the 12th of July, 2019, this morning at around 08:30, a shark was seen swimming in the vicinity of people at Biskupljača beach on the Dalmatian island of Vir. As the Facebook page Cro2go posted, a family from Zagreb who are on holiday on Vir managed to capture video footage of it. 

"Apparenty, it was circling the beach all the time, we didn't know whether or not it was gone... There were other people who filmed the shark, some people even went out on a boat to see what the situation was. It's allegedly a type which doesn't attack people, a Blue shark,'' stated the family who filmed the shark.

HRT reports that the shark had somehow managed to enter into an area fenced off for swimmers. After unsuccessfully attempting to get back out to the open sea, two swimmers helpfully directed the animal back to where it needed to be.

Watch the video here:

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Saturday, 29 June 2019

More Wild Animals Present on Roads in Wider Rijeka and Kvarner Area

Ever wondered just where in the mountains of Croatia you need to travel to manage to catch a glimpse of the wildlife? If it's deer you want to see, the roads in the Kvarner area might just be your best bet.

Your thoughts probably take you to some God forsaken, dangerous place in the Velebit mountain range or far off the beaten path in the rolling, green hills of Lika, but the roads around Rijeka and in the wider Kvarner area might just be your best bet. In fact, it seems that the entire Gorski-Kotar County area is teeming with wildlife, with deer causing the most issues of all.

As Morski writes on the 28th of June, 2019, as of the beginning of this week on the roads in the wider area of Crikvenica, Jelenje, Bakar, Matulji and Brod Moravica, all of which are in the Kvarner area, there were five cases of deer having run out onto the road and into oncoming traffic.

In these events, there were no injured persons, but unfortunately the deer, likely having run into the road in panic, were hit by cars. The total damage created by the deer so far is estimated at about 34,000 kuna. In addition, on June the 26th, in the wider area of Mali Lošinj, domestic animals, more precisely livestock, were recorded causing issues with traffic. In this instance, sheep were seen wandering around on the road, endangering not only their lives but the lives of drivers.

Police from the Kvarner area have since stated that these deer-related events were recorded between 23:30 and 23:30, therefore due to these unexpected occurrences of animals on the roads, both wild and domestic, the police advocated for drivers to exercise increased vigilance, particularly in the morning and evening hours and on less busy roads in areas less settled by humans.

It's worth remembering in accordance with the road traffic safety act, a driver of a vehicle which hits an animal on the road, can be held responsible for misdemeanor if it is determined that the animal has been hit due to a breach of traffic regulations or because the driver was speeding.

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Oceanography Experts Weigh in on Croatian Mako Shark Sightings

June the 12th, 2019 - Sharks are truly stunning creatures and a chance to see one for ourselves is a rare and amazing opportunity. While some still aren't over Jaws and the somewhat over the top message it sent out, many people have managed to get over Quint's premature and very bloody death at the hands of an obviously mechanical Great White shark and move on with their lives, even daring to swim where we can't see the seabed.

Two pieces of footage of a beautiful Mako shark have surfaced over the last few days, one video was taken by a German tourist sailing with his family near Makarska, and the other was taken by a Croat accompanying tourists on a boat in the Korčula channel.

Both pieces of video footage from Dalmatia are of a Mako shark. These sharks do live in the Croatian Adriatic, as do other types, but it's rare that we get the chance to get up close and personal, much less take relatively clear video footage of them going about their days. Mako sharks, much like the majority of other sharks, prefer to stay well out of the way of humans, avoiding potential meetings and opting instead to hunt for food. 

The Mako shark lives primarily on fish, such as tuna and swordfish, but it will also tackle sea turtles and even sea birds should the opportunity arise. It is classed as a dangerous shark, but Mako sharks are aloof, and attacks on humans are incredibly rare.

As Morski writes on the 12th of June, 2019, experts from the Split Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries commented on the recent video footage of the Mako sharks in the Adriatic. They confirmed the claims made by Pero Ugarković, who first revealed that the shark in question is indeed a Mako shark.

The experts stated, among other facts about Mako sharks having become a bit of a rarity in the Croatian Adriatic, that this is a threatened and protected species, and stressed that there is no need to panic. Although there are cases of human attacks carried out by this species, they are extremely rare, and in the last 120 years, only 10 have been recorded worldwide.

If you happen to be sailing in Dalmatia, keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready! Make sure to send us any footage of any Mako sharks you see.

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

VIDEO: New Footage of Impressive Mako Shark in Korčula Channel

We recently reported on the footage a German tourist sailing with his family near Makarska was lucky enough to capture of a large Mako shark doing his (or her) rounds on the lookout for lunch. 

While these sharks do exist in the Croatian Adriatic, they tend to stay out of the way of us and do their own thing in peace, with a large part of their day taken up looking for food. It's rare to be able to get up close and personal, much less capture such clear video footage of them cruising along effortlessly.

The shark in the German tourists' footage is a Mako shark, and a large example of its species. Mako sharks usually eat fish like tuna, mackerel and swordfish, but may take a ''swipe'' at sea turtles, porpoises and even birds should they get the chance to do so. Mako sharks are very fast swimmers and can pose a threat to humans, but their interaction with us, and their desire for it, is minimal. 

Another Mako shark has made an appearance for the camera, this time for some tourists in the Korčula channel.

As Morski writes on the 11th of June, 2019, just two days after a Mako shark ''posed'' for the camera of a German tourist sailing near Makarska, Toni Kačić managed to get a new recording of a Mako shark when out with a group of tourists, but this time the shark showed up in the Korčula channel.

The video was released by Podvodni.hr, whose expert Pero Ugarković confirmed two days ago that the shark in the video is definitely a Mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), and not some other species.

''Once again, we'd like to emphasise the fact that there is no cause for panic,'' writes Podvodni.hr.

Video owner: Toni Kacic / Source: Podvodni.hr

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