Forest specialists need your help

Slovenia has far too few natural forests. If we want to preserve the most threatened species of birds, we need to act now!

Slovenia ranks among the three most forested countries in Europe. But despite boasting a large area covered by trees (around 60 % of the country) and being renowned for its exemplary model of close-to-nature forestry, less than 1 % of the old, natural forests remain, mostly within a scatter of small forest reserves. Old forests are a key habitat for the survival of many important animal species, which can only be conserved through decisive action.

For this reason, we at DOPPS, Slovenia’s BirdLife International partner, are preparing a campaign in which everyone can participate, helping us preserve our natural forests and the species that depend upon them, for future generations.

In the last decade Slovenia has witnessed an intensification in forest management. According to the Slovenian Forest Service, since 2004, on average, more than 400 km of new forest roads used to harvest timber, are being laid every year. As a result, by opening up forests, we are losing old, natural growth and untouched stands, while there is no strategy aimed at replacing these losses with new forest areas left to nature. Old, natural growth forests, characterized by large volumes of dead wood, are formed over long periods of 50 to 100 years, and offer shelter to many valuable forest organisms we term “forest specialists”. These include many species of birds, the populations of which are already severely depleted. To conserve them we must act immediately to establish new forest reserves or areas excluded from human activities and exploitation, which would then be left to evolve naturally.

Within the Guardians of the Natural Forests project we are seeking the help of generous donors to raise funds for the purchase of at least 10 ha of forest, which will be returned to nature. We won’t interfere in this forest, but will let nature take its course. In doing so we will be preserving forest specialists such as the White-backed Woodpecker, Tengmalm’s Owl, Black Stork, Capercaillie and Red-breasted Flycatcher, as well as many other forest organisms. 

The campaign is supported by several celebrities & companies. You can help us too! Visit to find out how!



The Guardians of Natural Forests project is funded under the Active Citizens Fund program.

New, 1.5 hectare wet meadow at the Ormož Basins Nature Reserve

Anyone who visits the Ormož Basins Nature Reserve these days can bear witness to the richness of birdlife there. Each March the nature reserve boasts up to 1000 specimens of more than 30 water bird species. This diversity is a result of our efforts to renovate and properly manage the habitats of the past.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago).
Photo: Alen Ploj

Although the bulk of renovation work at the reserve took place between 2014 and 2017, as part of the LIFE project (LIFE11 NAT/SI/882), there are still many basins that would benefit from habitat restoration. We’ve brought to life just one such basin in the previous year.

The 1.5 ha surface area of the second basin’s northern section was overgrown by mostly introduced species of vegetation, and approximately 100 differently sized tree stumps made it difficult to perform quality hay harvest and restoration works at the basin. With support from the German foundation EuroNatur, we removed the stumps, evened the surface, mowed the vegetation and established the water regime necessary for the existence of wet meadows. In this way, we successfully restored an additional area of our nature reserve already in autumn 2020 when it was visited and used as a feeding ground by the common snipe, offering refuge to this species even now, at the time of its spring migration.

The renovated area is situated in the closed-off section of the nature reserve and can’t be accessed by visitors. We will strive to maintain the newly formed wet meadow in a continuous state of maximum biodiversity.

We support Malta in fight against finch trapping

Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)
Photo: Erik Šinigoj

Malta’s Finch Trapping derogation continues after ECJ ruling of 2018 had stopped

Malta had to phase out finch trapping by 2008 as agreed in the Accession Treaty after Malta became an EU member state. In 2014, the Government of Malta re-opened finch trapping by way of derogation until a final warning was given in 2017, which landed the matter at the ECJ, who found Malta guilty of not abiding by the Birds’ Directive in June 2018.

This year, the Maltese Government decided to not only defy the Accession Treaty, but also the ECJ ruling by re-opening once again a trapping season. In order to try and get away with this, Malta is this time applying a derogation under article 9 1(b) of the Birds Directive, for scientific research purposes. With this excuse lives of thousands of Linnets, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Hawfinches, Serins, Siskins and Greenfinches are in danger! Those species also breed in Slovenian forests and meadows.

BirdLife malta addressed a letter to EU Commisioner for Environment, asking to investigate and take action on a finch trapping derogation in Malta. DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia, together with 24 Europe BirdLife partners also endorsed the move.

Ormož Basins Nature Reserve among the finalists for the Natura 2000 Award

With habitat restoration and declaration of the Ormož Basins as a nature reserve we have been bestowed an international award – the restoration project is ranked among the finalists of this year’s Natura 2000 Awards.

The Ormož Sugar Factory began to operate in 1979. Waste waters rich with nutrients, which were accumulated in the nearby wastewater basins, quickly attracted numerous waterbirds, as the basins constituted an optimal feeding site for them. In the 1990s, the Bird Watching and Bird Study Association of Slovenia (DOPPS) and the Ormož Sugar Factory (TSO), the majority owner of which was the Dutch company Cosun, carried out with joint efforts few nature conservation campaigns in the basins of the Ormož Basins, among which let us highlight the setting up of breeding sites for the Common Tern and the Black-headed Gull – construction of first breeding rafts.

In 2006, the Sugar Factory was forced to shut down owing to the EU reforms. In spite of it, its management did not shut the door to nature conservation and the most important residents of the Ormož Basins – birds. In 2010 they decided to donate the area of the basins (60 ha) to DOPPS, while we made a commitment to establish a nature reserve and to take care of birds in the future. We successfully acquired LIFE funds, with which we were able to restore the habitats, establish a new inflow of water and began to implement an adaptive conservation management of the area.

»Some of us, the ornithologists, literally grew up with the Ormož Basins, well aware of what they meant to birds, their migration, and Slovenia itself. When they were faced with ruin, we invested all our efforts and put at stake many things in order to save them. I know that our determination and sincere intentions were recognized by the owners, and our dreams could thus become a reality. The path to the reserve, however, was still long and anything but easy, « said Damijan Denac, Director of DOPPS and Head of the basins restoration project.

In the Ormož Basins Nature Reserve you can now observe, in reed and bulrush stands and other target habitats several breeding Ferruginous Ducks and, once more, flocks of Wood Sandpipers. The area is a component part of Natura 2000 site »Drava« and has become one of the most important breeding sites and migration stops for waterbirds in Slovenia. At the same time, grazing Water Buffaloes have created one of the largest complexes of extensive pastures in the Lower Drava Region.

Natura 2000 Awards

This year the European Commission awarded us with a special recognition by ranking the habitat restoration project at Ormož Basins among the finalists of this year’s Natura 2000 Awards. In the »Nature Conservation« category, the Commission placed us side by side with another seven projects from the entire Europe, but it will be YOU who will choose the best project!

Damijan Denac: »With this particular project we have shown an alternative to the outdated concepts. We have preserved nature and dedicated it to educational purposes. We have created jobs and helped making the Ormož Municipality, the entire region and Slovenia more recognizable. All this is of public interest. On top of it we paid more social transfers and taxes than what the state has invested in our project. Apart from it, we therefore even filled the budget a little more. Let your vote for this project be also the message that today’s global problems – climate crisis, biodiversity crisis, “new diseases”, etc. – cannot be solved in the same ways that actually caused these problems – through infinite exploitation of nature.”

Click on the photo below and cast your vote for the Ormož Basins Nature Reserve and its inhabitants.

On the trail of Srečko to Tunisia

In July earlier this year we equipped, in the White Stork’s nest at Matena near Ljubljana, two chicks with GPS tracking device and began to monitor their migration journey. In cooperation with the wider public, the company Electro Ljubljana, which financially supported the project, named the two young storks Srečko and Bela. After the initial joint local flights, their paths separated on 20 August and the storks continued their long and dangerous flight separately towards Africa. Bela chose the characteristic route across the Balkans to the Near East and landed in the south of the Sinai Peninsula. Srečko, on the other hand, surprisingly opted for the route across Italy to Tunisia where, however, he met with dire trouble. At the end of September we decided to travel to Tunisia to explore his fate.

Storks at the slaughterhouse waste landfill. Many of them probably knew Srečko. Photo: Tilen Basle

Srečko in trouble

Srečko crossed the Mediterranean Sea on 30 August and landed about 80 kilometres east of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. A day later he moved south towards the town of Enfida and settled there. On the basis of satellite images we were able to establish that he spent most of his time in extensive olive groves, occasionally visiting the nearby wetlands. On 12 September morning we began to receive data from Srečko’s transmitter, which persistently pointed at the same locality – a cause for major concern. We contacted the local ornithological association, but were informed that Srečko could not be located by them. At the end of the month we and Electro Ljubljana decided to travel to Tunisia to explore the circumstances that led our bird to such a sad end. On Saturday 28 September in the morning, two conservation ornithologists of DOPPS-BirdLife Slovenia boarded a plane for Tunisia.

Srečko with transmitter under an olive tree. Photo: Tilen Basle

Soon after landing in Tunisia, Alen and Tilen indeed found Srečko’s corpse north of Enfida. Srečko met his sad death under a tree in the vast olive grove. They removed the GPS tracking device and a plastic ring from him and decided to explore the immediate surroundings. No visible signs of injuries could be seen on the corpse, but there were several pieces of plastic bag strewn on the ground all around it. From the gathered data we presumed that Srečko got entangled in a plastic bag and died. No traces of plastic could be found in his digestive tract, but there was quite some plumage in it, which attracted no special attention.

What did Srečko do in Tunisia?

In the ensuing three days, Alen and Tilen explored the areas frequented by Srečko during his stay in Tunisia. They headed for Lake Kelbia, which had also been visited by Srečko a day before his fatal accident. At that time of the year, this brackish lake hosts thousands of waders, particularly flamingos, avocets and sandpipers.

Srečko also made a few visits to a small freshwater lake in the vicinity of the prominent village of Takroun, where he was most probably searching for food. During their visit, our two ornithologists were able to observe huge flocks of White-headed Ducks, Ferruginous Ducks, Garganeys and other ducks.

In spite of it all, the greatest surprise was waiting for them on their last day in Tunisia. They thoroughly explored the two areas visited by Srečko every single day during his stay in Tunisia. The first area, an olive grove approximately 2 kilometres north of the spot where Srečko was found dead, hosted 30 White Storks and several hundred Cattle Egrets and Ravens. They soon discovered what in fact attracted the birds to this habitat, so unusual for these birds: slaughterhouse waste landfill! In the waste, remains of poultry prevailed, from where the plumage found in Srečko’s stomach most probably originated. The storks observed at this spot most likely belonged to the permanent population that spends a whole year in the vicinity of Enfida. In the evenings, the storks headed for the town’s neighbourhood, where they slept on electricity pylons and transmitters.

The other area regularly visited by Srečko was an olive grove about a kilometre and a half east of the spot of his death. Here they found a pylon, where Srečko slept each night. The latter was also confirmed by the time record on the data of the spots provided by the tracking device.

What exactly happened to Srečko?

Precise circumstances of Srečko’s death shall never be known, but we can claim with all certainty that Srečko was feeding most of his time in the company of other storks at the slaughterhouse waste landfill in the vicinity of Enfida, where he also slept on an electricity pylon. The circumstances from the spot of his death indicate that he got entangled in a plastic bag, thousands of which lie strewn in this area, particularly at the landfill, where Srečko was feeding. It is also possible, however, that Srečko was killed by poisoned or infected food at the landfill, but in view of the circumstances this would be difficult to determine with the utmost certainty.

Bela is still at Sharm el Sheik

Bela, which followed the eastern migration route, is now in the vicinity of the Sharm el Sheikh resort in Egypt, where she has resided for quite a while. In the company of other White Storks she has been feeding at a wastewater-collection point, which is the only water body in the area. Unfortunately, the quality of water in the basins is extremely low, for each year numerous deaths of storks and other birds are reported from there. As indicated but the data on the research carried out so far, the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula is a blind migration route, as birds only exceptionally continue their flight to Africa. Bela will be most probably forced to stay in the area until next spring, and it can only be hoped that she will safely return home.