Protecting Slovenian 'dragons'

by Anonymous (not verified) on

BBC News Online recently ran a report referencing the work of ZSL EDGE Fellow Dr Dušan Jelić as part of wider interest in the the elusive olm (Proteus anguinus).

Olm
Olm

Dr Dušan Jelić is a biologist from Croatia who works in animal ecology and conservation. He is an EDGE Fellow, part of ZSL's global EDGE of Existence programme, the only international conservation initiative to focus specifically on threatened species that represent a significant amount of unique evolutionary history.

Based in Zagreb, Dušan is at the forefront of efforts to save the olm, a unique species of salamander currently classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List.

Found exclusively in underground cave systems in the Balkans, olms are Europe’s only cave-adapted vertebrate and despite being thought to live more than 100 years, reproduce just once or twice per decade – hence the current clutch of eggs discovered in Slovenia are attracting so much media interest.

Protecting the baby dragon

The olm eats, sleeps, and breeds underwater. It has adapted to living in total darkness and can survive for up to 10 years without food. 

Data on the olm distribution and the general knowledge on its ecology and biology is scarce, even though it is the most recognizable representative of the endemic underground fauna.

The PROTEUS project started through the ZSL EDGE Fellowship strives to determine the exact species distribution and its population status in the region. This is a challenging task given that its natural underwater habitat is not easily accessible, making species observation and study very complex.

Data collection and analysis of the olm is of high importance for the determination and realization of species protection measures. 

Olm
Olm

More information

Olms are just one of the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) animals covered by the Edge of Existence programme.

Blog by Dušan Jelić 

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