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).


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. 


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 

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!


We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.


From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.


A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.