The Guardians of Postojna Cave’s Baby Dragons – Finalists for the Natura 2000 Award
On the first day of spring, we were delighted by a piece of wonderful news from Brussels: the guardians of Postojna Cave Park’s baby dragons are Slovenia’s only representative among the finalists for the coveted NATURA 2000 Award.
“As a rule, awards are given for outstanding economic achievements. In this particular case, however, this international award rewards attentiveness, excellence and awareness in the management of protected natural areas and showcases the importance of preserving the ecosystem for local communities and economies across the European Union. This is much more than an outstanding economic achievement. This is a competition as part of which our work dedicated to nature protection will bear fruit for our grandchildren.” This is what Marjan Batagelj, the managing director of Postojna Cave, had to say in reaction to the news.“This is a remarkable tribute to the olms, Postojna Cave and the whole of Slovenia!”
Together with the entire team who works here, proudly presenting itself as the baby dragon guardians, Postojna Cave is a finalist in the Communication category. This award recognises communication-related achievements that have a long-term contribution to the awareness of Natura 2000 sites, bringing lasting positive changes in terms of environmental attitudes and behaviour. As pointed out in the finalist’s presentation, Postojna Cave’s work goes beyond the mere communication category; in fact, the contribution of the baby dragon guardians is much more far-reaching.
By voting, you can become baby dragon guardians. Vote and contribute your share to the conservation of the olms’ habitat:
Don’t miss: After submitting your vote, a confirmation email will be sent to your email address. You need to validate your vote by clicking on the link in the confirmation email.
You can vote until 27 April 2022.
COMMITTED TO PRESERVING NATURE
The olm (Proteus anguinus) – which used to be mistaken for a dragon because of its appearance and is thus nicknamed the baby dragon – is an endangered animal species found only in the Dinarides/Karst area. The Postojna Cave management is committed to protecting the species, preserving its habitat, educating school-age children and raising public awareness of the harmful effects of agriculture on groundwater pollution. Our guiding principle is doing only what is good for the cave and the cave visitors. Olms are an indispensable and – in addition to the iconic cave train – most recognisable part of the cave’s and Slovenian identities. In 2010, we co-designed and set up a cave aquarium that provides optimum conditions for olms and our biologists’ work. In 2016, we witnessed a one-of-a-kind event for the first time in history: olm eggs being laid inside a tourist cave and the hatching of baby olms. Five years later, we have 21 baby dragons, which are our greatest treasure. The event excited a lot of public and media interest. We are proud to say that there was probably not a single corner of the world where people did not wonder if the baby dragons were still alive. Postojna Cave attracted a remarkable amount of attention and many people looked at a map to find Slovenia’s exact location. According to scientists, the one-of-a-kind nature of this event lies in the fact that the hatching took place in the first place and that it was as successful as it was, i.e. far more successful than they had believed was possible.
WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR BABY DRAGON GUARDIANS?
Out of love for nature and the commitment Marjan Batagelj and the head of the cave laboratory Katja Dolenc Batagelj made when taking over the management of the Postojna Cave Park, we did our absolute best to make sure the baby olms survived and thrived. We have been taking caring of them round the clock and working with outside experts and scientists from the Biotechnical Faculty in Ljubljana. Through joint efforts and a lot of love, we set up the most successful cave laboratory. New findings about this ever-mysterious animal species brought important information for research into the olms’ reproduction and insight into successful breeding conditions.
CARING ABOUT OLMS IS CARING ABOUT CLEAN WATER
Due to the permeability and porosity of the soil, pollution of the karst surface is extremely problematic, as pollutants reach drinking water faster and to a greater extent. However, olms are not the only living being dependent on drinking and clean karst water; there is also a large number of people as the karst covers as much as 43% of the Slovenian territory (12% on a global scale). All the pollutants from surface end up underground. The less pollution on the surface, the easier it will be to preserve the olms’ habitat and drinking water. Our efforts to preserve the baby dragons are thus a reflection of the fight for a clean environment and olms have become a symbol of clean water.
PROMOTION OF SLOVENIA AS A SUSTAINABLE DESTINATION
Among the finalists for the Natura 2000 Award, Postojna Cave’s baby dragon guardians are an important ambassador of Slovenia as a green, boutique and sustainable destination. As this is an internationally acclaimed award, the fact that we are a finalist – especially at a time after a period that was extremely difficult for tourism – is an additional promotion of Slovenia on a global level.