DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia (manager of the state nature reserve)
Funding support: Management supported by the state budget (MoE), project sources, reserve income (from guided tours), sponsorships
Number of staff: 6,5-7 FTE
Number of visitors per year: 10-15,000 (after the construction of the visitor facilities, planned in 2014, the increase of visitors is expected to 50-60,000 people per year
Overall aims of the centre
1) To protect and enhance freshwater and brackish habitats of this unique wetland in order to support endangered breeding, migratory and wintering birds of national and European importance
2) To organise the area as a nature reserve/ wetland centre, open to the public with an important educational, awareness rising and research function
Description of the centre
Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve is a Mediterranean wetland covering an area of 122 hectares. It is the largest brackish wetland in Slovenia, well-known for its rich fauna and flora. The visit to Škocjanski zatok is an excellent choice for all who wish to experience the rich biodiversity of a Mediterranean wetland. The reserve consists of two parts:
– a brackish lagoon with breeding islets, saltmarshes and mudflats overgrown with a variety of halophytic plants, and – a freshwater marsh with wet meadows, open water areas surrounded by reedbeds and termophile shrubs.
The combination of brackish and freshwater habitats makes Škocjanski zatok a very diverse environment, regardless its small area. Nearly three quarters of the nature reserve is covered by the brackish lagoon – its nesting islands, saltmarshes and mudflats are a home to a range of rare animal and plant species. The best known among the plants are the halophytes, plants adapted to the salt in the air and soil, which in Slovenia besides Škocjanski zatok only grow in Sečovlje and Strunjan Nature Parks.
The freshwater part of the nature reserve is located in the area called Bertoška bonifika. It was artificially created during the reserve restoration in 2006-07 as a substitute habitat for the wetlands lost nearby Koper through the urbanisation processes in the past decades. It consists of wet meadows, reedbed and deep water areas which are all important breeding and feeding grounds for birds.
Birds are the most outstanding fauna group: a reserve area of only 122 hectares hosts over 240 species and the number is still increasing. This is over 60% of all bird species observed in Slovenia.
Main CEPA work areas
1) On-site events include mainly guided tours and excursions for schools (with education program) and other interested public as well as some on-site events (such as painting competition for local schools, education workshops for volunteers and students etc.)
2) Off-site events activities comprises mainly the presentation of the nature reserve to the decision-makers and professionals as well as general public (local, national as well as educational groups in smaller extent) as well as the lectures on similar themes carried out in Koper and aiming to promote nature conservation issues among the local public of nature reserve.
3) The PR and media work on Skocjanski zatok started in the beginning of 1990s and helped to achieve the official protection of the area which was suffering from the degradation processes at the time.
All the media work from 1993-2010 was analysed and analyses confirmed all the working hypothesis:
1) The public image of the Skocjanski zatok in last 4 years was positive.
2) Communication activities of the reserve manager in the last 10 years have contributed towards development and keeping of the positive image of the reserve in public.
3) Communication without true information basis (based on speculations) is not effective and can harm the image of the communicator. 4- After the construction and opening of the visitor facilities and supported also with good communication strategy, Skocjanski zatok can become a real success story.
4) Video clips: Upon the filming of Škocjanski zatok wildlife and activities, 3 short video-clips were produced in the end of 2011 and incorporated in the renovated reserve web site
5) Web site
6) Printed publications including the reserve field guide are all published on the reserve web site – http://skocjanski-zatok.org/en/gallery/publikacije/
Top three successes
The diversity of birds is a direct positive result of the carefully planned and implemented RESTORATION and MANAGEMENT of the reserve. Due to the extremely positive impact to the reserve’s biodiversity increase, the restoration is considered one of the biggest success stories of modern nature conservation in Slovenia. This is one success only but a big one!
An extensive restoration of the reserve, led by the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and the Reserve Manager (DOPPS-BirdLife Slovenia), was completed in 2007. The restoration contained regulation and enhancement of freshwater, seawater and brackish habitats.
In the first spring after the restoration, the reserve was again full of life, filled with nesting birds. Positive thinking and huge amounts of creative energy had eventually borne fruit, and since then Škocjanski zatok has been known far and wide as a story of success. The largest brackish wetlands in Slovenia has reassumed its deserved position among protected areas, ecologically important areas and natural values of Slovenia and was again ranked among North Adriatic wetlands and the Natura 2000 sites of Europe.
Top three challenges
Today, Škocjanski zatok is one of the centres of sustainable development of Koper and its surroundings. In addition to taking the settlement culture of the city to a higher level and contributing to better quality of life of the local people, the Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve has increased the added value of Koper from the spatial point of view.
Nearing its final form, the reserve is becoming a new destination of quickly developing nature tourism. It will surely attract a different type of visitors and help extend the region’s tourist season. Situated on the doorstep of Slovenian coast, Škocjanski zatok is also an invaluable asset in the promotion of other sights in the area.
On account of its model value and high restoration costs, the Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve is a reminder for the Slovenian and international public of the importance of preserving natural environments. It is a lesson in elaborate and wise treatment of space, nature and landscape. Rather than relying on legal prohibitions, we should strive towards long-term values such as love for the nature and respect of other living beings on this planet as well as preservation of nature for the generations to come.
In Škocjanski zatok, these values were put to the test, and came out victorious. Today, Škocjanski zatok and its story of success give us hope of a better future of nature conservation in Slovenia and worldwide. This is a message we want to spread and share with others!
Producing written materials
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat
Engaging young people; Working with volunteers
Education and communication
Early years education; Working with primary schools; Working with secondary schools