Poachers threaten Balkans' underground biodiversity


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Publication Date

December 2017


Deep beneath four Balkan nations lies a unique biodiversity hot spot. Thousands of caves, channels, and sinkholes in the Dinaric Alps, Europe's largest limestone karst, are teeming with creatures adapted to life in pitch-dark, food-poor conditions. Every year, biologists, working with speleologists, add new insects, spiders, centipedes, crabs, and amphibians to a trove of species that already totals more than 900 creatures found here only. But the ghost-pale, exotic-looking cave dwellers, most of them blind, attract other interest, too. Over the past 18 months, researchers have found hundreds of traps in caves in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, set by unscrupulous poachers seeking rare specimens to sell on the black market. (Whether they're active in Montenegro as well is unclear.) Troglobionts—animals uniquely adapted to caves—are under threat worldwide from water pollution and development. But in the Balkans, cave conservation requires help from the police, as investigators try to stop a practice that could do irreparable harm to the unique ecosystems.


Biodiversity, Balkan, Dinaric Alps

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Science, Vol. 358, no. 6367 (2017-12-01).