Skocjan Caves, A Treasure

14/12/2011

Twelve years ago, Skocjan Caves were designated by Slovenia for the Ramsar List, at the occasion of COP7 (1999), as one of the first karst and underground wetland ecosystems. One that features an exclusive stalactite cave system, a roaring underground river, impressive collapsed dolinas and other karst phenomena with a particular cultural heritage in the above-ground settlements. Today, the locals and the managers of the protected area celebrate 25 years of its inscription to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986. And in 1996 shortly before its Ramsar designation, the Public Agency of the Skocjan Caves Regional Park was created.
 
Today, about 100,000 tourists visit the natural phenomena each year, a brilliant example for Ramsar’s 2012 theme on wetlands, recreation and tourism. In 2004 the wider Skocjan area devoted to sustainable development and environmental education was enlarged and included as a Biosphere Reserve in UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme. A Ramsar Site with so many distinctions must be extraordinary? Indeed, many Ramsar experts had the opportunity to verify this for themselves during an above and underground visit at the occasion of the 4th European Ramsar Meeting in 2001.

Skocjan Caves are one of the few places on earth that is listed by all three global
networks of protected areas: as a Ramsar Site,
World Heritage Property and Biosphere Reserve,
and additionally they are covered by
European Union Directives and Slovenian national legislation.


In November 2011, the bimonthly magazine “Kras”, illustrating the Slovenian Karst region (that gave its name to the phenomena of hydrological limestone erosion all over the world), published a special bilingual (English/Slovenian) issue about the Skocjan Caves Regional Park. Gordana Beltram, a former chair of Ramsar’s Standing Committee and current manager of the Skocjan Caves Public Agency, introduces the publication by recalling that still 40 years after her first visit, the caves inspire her “with a very deep respect and admiration of nature, its mysterious forces and immense dimensions”. She is joined in her tribute by other specialists, illustrating the importance of this Ramsar Site for the local communities and the Slovenian economy, the ongoing work on monitoring, management, maintenance and restoration of the area’s natural and cultural values, cooperative projects with other karst areas and Ramsar Sites in neighbouring Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia, with financial support from the European Union, and further apart in other karst regions (e.g. of China).
 
The Ramsar Secretariat wishes to congratulate Gordana and all her colleagues, former and present, and the local authorities and inhabitants of the area for their achievements. They can be “rightly proud of the natural values that they succeeded to preserve during the history” and aim to preserve for posterity, as Tomaz Zorman, the head of the Nature Protection Supervision Service of the Ramsar Site, puts it in his article in the “Kras” magazine. The magazine is edited by Mediacarso Ltd. and can be ordered contacting revijakras@siol.net for 4 EUR plus postage.

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