Postojna Cave steps up effort to protect its 57 baby dragons

An olm and an egg.
The Postojna Cave welcomes a new batch of "baby dragons". Photo: Postojna Cave

The Postojna Cave welcomed new olm offspring last year after witnessing the blind cave salamander (Proteus anguinus) reproduce “in the wild” for the first time in 2016. Now it has launched a special project to take care of what are a total of 57 baby dragons.

Last year, the Postojna Cave vivarium welcomed 36 baby olms, snake-like and almost translucent blind animals endemic to the Dinaric karst, which is only their second batch in history. The animals can live up to 120 years.

“It was a 13-year-old inspecting the olm vivarium on a school trip who first spotted a new egg,” Marjan Batagelj, the CEO of the company managing the cave, told reporters on 26 January. They were somewhat surprised that such a rare event should get repeated so soon.

The cave custodians currently take care of 57 olms; those who hatched out in 2016 have grown to almost an adult size, measuring 16 to 18 centimetres in length.

Given the ever larger olm population, the cave manager is starting a project called Protect Proteus to raise funds for the protection of the cave species and its natural habitat, and to conduct further research into what is considered part of Slovenia’s living heritage.

The project will also raise awareness of how important this underground amphibian is, and educate the public about the need to keep the environment and drinking water clean lest this endemic species should come under threat.

“Nature has entrusted us with protecting baby dragons so our mission in to ensure a safe and healthy living environment for the species,” Batagelj said.

Funds for its preservation will be raised from donations and the sale of special wristbands carrying the olm’s image. Part of the money will be secured from corporate partners committed to sustainability.

The funds will then be allocated to ensuring optimal living conditions for the olm, educating the public, and long-term investments into environmental protection.

Specialized laboratories are to be set up where data on the olm and other cave species will be gathered. The project will also involve the Ljubljana Faculty of Biotechnology.