The Slovenia Times

Kočevski Rog, a wildlife sanctuary

Environment & NatureSpotlight
Kočevski Rog
A forest.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Kočevski Rog, a vast remote area in the south-east of the country, is one of the best preserved natural environments in Slovenia. Mainly covered in forest, it is a sanctuary for many plant and animal species, including the bear, wolf and the lynx.

Due to its remoteness and infertile soil, Kočevski Rog was a completely secluded old-growth forest five centuries ago. In the 14th century German immigrants started settling on its outskirts, cultivating the land and changing the landscape. After they left in 1941, the land became gradually overgrown again.

Kočevski Rog is a karst plateau that is part of the Dinaric Alps mountain range. Its highest peak is Veliki Rog, at an altitude of 1,099 metres. At the heart of this remote area is the Rajhenavski Rog reserve, an old-growth forest.

A number of plant and animal species thrive in the virtually intact natural environment, including four plant species that are endangered in Europe and 60 animal species. A dozen habitats thrive there.

The vast forests of Kočevski Rog, which merge with the Snežnik forests to the west, are deemed essential for the survival of large carnivores such as the bear, wolf and the lynx, and are very important for the woodpecker, owl and the grouse.

Environmentalists look out for engendered species such as the white-backed woodpecker, Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, western capercaillie and the hazel grouse. The ecosystem is also important for bats and beetles, and the caves on the outskirts of Kočevski Rog are part of the karst underground system, which is home to the protected olm, a species endemic to the Dinaric karst region.

The regional unit of the Institute for Nature Conservation says that it benefits the many animal and plant species that Kočevski Rog is virtually uninhabited. The only residential areas are a small holiday resort near the Gače ski slopes and two farms in Komarna Vas and Pogorelec.

There is no mass tourism in the area and the institute hopes it will stay that way. It says it is important that the protection of natural and cultural heritage in Kočevski Rog is given priority over tourism.

Visitors can only use marked trails and forest roads in Kočevski Rog and no events are organised for more than 30 people.

However, Kočevski Rog is becoming an increasingly popular hiking destination. The most popular spots are Mirna Gora (1,047 metres) and Veliki Rog.

Some visitors also come to see Baza 20, a complex of barracks used as a hidden military and political base during the Second World War. They also come to visit the chasms holding the victims of post-WWII summary killings. An annual ceremony commemorating the victims is held there every June.

Kočevski Rog spans almost 21,000 hectares of forest, mostly beech (55%), spruce (20%) and fir trees (15%), data from the Forest Service show. The highest beech trees and two highest fir trees in the country can be found in the Soteska nad Krko gorge.

More than 90% of the Kočevski Rog forests are state-owned and are managed sustainably. Despite being managed for more than 150 years, the natural tree composition of these forests is well preserved, the Forest Service told the STA.

Because of the exceptional biodiversity, the presence of large carnivores and the fact that most of the land is state-owned, there have been initiatives to make Kočevski Rog a protected regional park. The park has been included in the national spatial plan and studies have been made to found the park but the final step has never been made.


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