..
.
.
."Протеус опсерваторијум, Требиње"
и
 "Центар за спасавање човјечије рибице"
.
.
"Proteus Opservatorijum, Trebinje"
i
"Centar za Spasavanje Čovječije ribice"
.
.
"Proteus Obzervatorijum, Trebinje"
i
"Centar za Spasavanje Čovječje ribice"
.
.
."Trebinjei Barlangi Vakgőte Obszervatórium"
és
"Barlangi Vakgőte Menhely"
.
..
The Trebinje Proteus Observatorium :
The initial "trial operations" began in February / March 2016 and were resumed again in September / October 2016 to enable us to test our underwater camera positionings and all associated equipment. These trials were successful but were not open to the public. 
In the summer of 2017, we will advertise which "trial operations", will then be available for local people in the Trebinje urban and rural areas to be able to go to see the first glimpses of certain aspects of their natural karst underground heritage, about which the whole world marvels.

Please remember that we are setting up this facility over the next few years and it will take time before this work is anywhere near fully complete and ready for use. 
Our programmed target date for completion is August 2020.

Local people in the Trebinje Region will have the advantage of being the first to receive any news of developments or to experience the results of such developments.
In September 2013., the Media in Trebinje were quick to pick up on rumours of this development and the "Proteus Project" Co-ordinator Groups gave a radio / television interview about the plans for this facility.
In October 2016, the "Proteus Project's" Director issued a general Press Release in Trebinje about the Proteus Observatorium and the Proteus Rescue Centre, to which many of the local and regional Press and Media responded.
Apart from giving TV and Radio interviews, which were broadcast during peak viewing times on RTRS., Radio Trebinje and Herceg Televisija, we had remarkably good coverage in many Newspapers and Internet Portals across Bosnia & Hercegovina during October 2016, with the emphasis on the Proteus Rescue and Care Facility.
.
Planned advertised events in the future will include multi-media presentations about Proteus anguinus and its associated species, together with progress reports about the "Proteus Project" itself.
.

Above :  Proteus anguinus.at rest in its natural habitat, Trebinje, RS-BiH.
(Photo:..Balázs Lerner, September 2013.)
.
.

Above :  Proteus anguinus.at rest in its natural habitat, Trebinje, RS-BiH.
(Photo:..Balázs Gergely, September 2009.)
.
.


.
The Trebinje Proteus Rescue Centre :
This became operational as of October 2015, at which time it received its first live, stray, un-injured Proteus for re-homing. The stray Proteus had become washed out of its natural habitat in the Donje Police urban district of Trebinje by the force of strong underground flood-water, during the October storms.  It could not be placed back into the underground location from where it came. 
(see Photo below.)

.
From February 2016, the Proteus Rescue Centre was now able to receive injured stray Proteus specimens for quarantined care and recovery, before being released into the natural hypogean habitat in the Proteus Observatorium.
Proteus individuals undergoing quarantined care are monitored by infra-red camera and can be seen by any visitors at the entrance to the Proteus Observatorium by means of relayed TV signal.  Again, it will be advertised locally when such events are made available for the general public to visit.
The Proteus Rescue Centre does not operate an amphibian veterinary service to the injured Proteus.
.
.
Above :..How not to handle a delicate and critically endangered hypogean animal !!
A stray Proteus found by local people to be floundering in the Trebišnjica River near Aleksina Medja, Trebinje, on 05 February, 2009.
(Photo :  Bogdan Prelević.)
.Speleološko društvo "Zelena Brda" - Trebinje, RS-BiH
The Devon Karst Research Society, Plymouth, UK.
Caudata Hungarian Cave Research Group, Budapest, Hungary.
.
"The Proteus Project in the Trebišnjica River Basin."
"A Joint Strategy for the Protection of the Endangered Underground Endem Proteus anguinus and its Natural Karst Habitat in the Trebišnjica River Basin",
.
Istočna Hercegovina i Hercegovačko Priobalja, Bosna i Hercegovina;
Dalmatinsko i Dubrovačko Priobalja i Konavle, Hrvatska;
Stara Hercegovina, Crna Gora.
.
The Trebinje Proteus Observatorium
and 
Proteus Rescue Centre
a  Rescue & Care Facility for Stray Damaged and Undamaged Proteus Specimens
at the Vrelo "Vruljak 2" location in Gorica, Trebinje, Bosnia & Hercegovina.
Updated 07 November 2016.
.

"Протеус Опсерваторијум, Требиње"..и.."Центар за Срасавање Човјечије рибице"....|...."Proteus Opservatorijum, Trebinje"..i.."Centar za Spasavanje Čovječije ribice"
"Proteus Obzervatorijum, Trebinje"..i.."Centar za Spasavanje Čovječje ribice"....|...."Trebinjei Barlangi Vakgőte Obszervatórium"..és.."Barlangi Vakgőte Menhely"

INTRODUCTION :
The Town of Trebinje (Grad Trebinje) is situated in Trebinjsko Polje at the upstream end of Popovo Polje in Eastern Hercegovina, Bosnia and Hercegovina. This area is a biodiversity "hotspot" for hypogean fauna, including the enigmatic focal species of the "Proteus Projects", Proteus anguinus anguinus (Laur, 1768) or locally Čovječija ribica.
The Trebišnjica River passes through this large town, whilst simultaneously, its connected karst hydrology also passes around and beneath the town.  Trebinje and the Trebišnjica River (formerly the Trebinjčica River) are thus intricately connected.
In September 2013., the "Proteus Project" operating in the Trebišnjica River Basin reached the end of the politico-administrative process of defining and formally requesting the first RS-BiH-Entity Level "Protected Area" as a Biosphere Reserve for the protection of the critically endangered cave salamander Proteus anguinus
The initial area which we have defined for RS-BiH-Entity Level Protection includes only a small part of a very much larger karst conduit-aquifer hypogean ecosystem and will be followed and joined in the years to come by further adjacent or contiguous parts of the same whole ecosystem until it is protected in its entirety. 
It has been agreed with the RS-BiH-Entity Level Government Authorities in Banja Luka that this is the only viable way we can proceed under the restrictions of the prevailing politico-administrative and economic conditions. We are grateful that we can proceed at all.
The formal conclusion of the Government protection process is now at the final stage and is delayed only by the total inaction of the Opština Trebinje political bureaucracy.
.
Whilst we are certainly not supporting any political party in BiH, we would like to make it perfectly clear and understood that the non-political officers and staff members of the Republički Zavod za Zaštitu Kulturno Istorijskog i Prirodnog Nasleđa, Banja Luka and those of the relevant ministerial administrative support offices in the Ecology Section of the Ministarstvo za Prostorno Uređenje, Građevinarstvo i Ekologiju, Banja Luka, have been exceptionally professional and completely supportive of the karst environmental protection objectives of the "Proteus Project", based in Trebinje.
They understand the importance of what we are doing and have often gone far beyond the remit of their duties over the past 3 years to actively help us and to reassure us about our imminent success in our objective to obtain our first RS-BiH Entity Level Government Protection Order for Proteus anguinus in a Karst Conduit-aquifer Hypogean part-Ecosystem. 
.
A "Dilemma" of an Idea :
Forward planning of objectives for the Phase 3. period (2021-2030) of the "Proteus Project" in Eastern Hercegovina included the creation of a combined facility based on a "Proteus Observatorium". 
It was intended that such a combined facility would eventually be used as :-
.....(a) a Rescue & Care Facility for Stray Damaged and Undamaged Proteus Specimens;
.....(b) a location at which the local population could actually see one of the most famous cave animals in the world in its natural karst habitat - a "Proteus Obervatorium";
.....(c) an ecotourist visitor location.
.....(d) a demonstration centre for associated scientific activities and speleobiological research.
.
It was also realised that such a facility could not be developed quickly, due to the constraints placed upon such a plan by the very characteristics required by (e) above. 
The creation and operation of a "Proteus Observatorium" such as we had in mind, would have to be designed in strict compliance with the "Prime Directive and And Ethical Code of Practice" of the "Proteus Project". As such, it must therefore, pose absolutely no risk to the health and well-being of any Proteus colony and must not adversely affect the natural habitat. 
In other words, there can be no visitors and in fact, absolutely no human impact whatsoever to the natural cave habitat in which Proteus is living, whilst, at the same time, somehow allowing visitors to observe the wonderful Proteus without using white light!  An apparent dilemma?
.
In the future, we will explain how we have resolved the practical and technical issues in order to achieve the seemingly difficult objective of constructing a "Proteus Obsevatorium".
.


THE TREBINJE PROTEUS OBSERVATORIUM :
.
[observatorium...n., a building, station, viewpoint or a spying place equipped with scientific apparatus and from which to watch and make observations.]
[Proteus observatorium...n.,.a building, station, viewpoint or a spying place equipped with scientific apparatus and from which to covertly watch and make observations about the cave salamander Proteus anguinus anguinus.and its associated hypogean fauna.]
.
Initial Installation work of the "Proteus Observatorium" :
The long-standing problem with the realization of this idea has been with identifying a suitable location at which it could be developed. The most difficult aspect of the development wa in deciding which Proteus anguinus Habitat Location, if any, would be suitable and capable of supporting a Proteus Observatorium.
.
In 2010., it was decided that at least for the development of the "Proteus Observatorium", we had identified such a location suitable for its development and that we should
plan to initiate its realization within the Phase 2. period (2011-2020) of the "Proteus Project" so that its fully operational implementation would be on time for the start of the "Proteus Project's" Phase 3. period in 2021. 
In support of this decision, the important first steps were taken during the "Proteus Project's" summer 2013 programme of activities, whereby the very small cave entrance to the chosen habitat location was cleared of its comparatively small amount of rocks and earth down to the limestone bedrock and then permanently blocked by the construction of a very thick, steel-reinforced wall, into which a small lockable access gate was inserted as an integral structure. Having secured the access point, the first batch of cameras was installed into the aquatic hypogean habitat by our Hungarian cave divers.  This set in motion the essential basis for the start-up of the original idea.  Further development has taken place in successive years.
We are looking for sponsors and co-partners to join us in this unique and prestigious development !!


.
This will be the first such live and 100% natural.Proteus Observatorium in all of Bosnia & Hercegovina or indeed anywhere within the natural geographical range of Proteus anguinus.  This facility is where an original breeding colony of Proteus in their natural habitat conditions, can be watched without disturbing the colony either by the presence of human visitors or of white light.
There are other types of "Proteus Vivaria" and Aquaria in Europe using captive colonies of Proteus for scientific research. Invariably, these are attached to university laboratories, research establishments or tourist centres in Slovenia, Italy and France, where the artificial habitat does not reflect very much of the real or natural habitat of this amazing species, whose natural behaviour can only be observed ..... in completely natural conditions.
So, for Trebinje, this is a "first in the world" situation.
.



THE TREBINJE PROTEUS RESCUE CENTRE
RESCUE AND CARE FACILITY FOR STRAY DAMAGED & UNDAMAGED PROTEUS SPECIMENS :
.
INTRODUCTION :
It is not unusual for Proteus specimens to become forced or washed out of their natural underground habitat locations on to the surface, especially when the underground flow rates in the karst conduit-aquifers respond to prolonged periods of high rainfall.  This appears to happen mostly to young or juvenile specimens who have perhaps not previously experienced extremely high flow conditions or which are not sufficiently prepared for their survival strategy in such circumstances, or even perhaps do not have the physical strength to undertake their instinctive survival strategy.
It is most probable that we are not aware of many of these natural incidents and even when members of the local community do come across such stray Proteus, that once again, we are not informed.
During prolonged periods of high rainfall, Proteus may be washed out into local surface streams or rivers or may appear in semi-natural or completely artificial locations where they become isolated and trapped.  Wherever this occurrs, they may survive in a physically undamaged condition for a brief period of time or may become physically damaged because of the unfamiliar environment in which they find themselves.  In the surface or epigean environment they can face danger from many possible sources. 

It has been apparent to us for many years that there is a need for a service to rescue and re-home stray Proteus in the Trebišnjica River Basin and even to protect and nurse damaged specimens in a suitable quarantine facility before returning them to a suitable hypogean location. 

The “Proteus Project” has an inherent “duty of care” to protect Proteus and its natural habitats and this responsibility also naturally extends to those Proteus specimens that are forced out of their natural underground habitats onto the surface.
The “Proteus Project in the Trebišnjica River Basin” is especially fortunate in having the exclusive control of its own natural Proteus anguinus Habitat Location - the "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium" - in which to both re-home undamaged stray Proteus specimens and to care for damaged Proteus specimens in a quarantined facility, prior to their release into the natural karst hypogean environment.  This unique facility is now at a sufficient stage of development whereby it is perfectly suited to the task. 
The “Trebinje Proteus Rescue Centre” is thus an integral feature of the facility.  Using the local Press and Media in October 2016, together with a leafleting programme, this facility has been rigorously advertised as being available for accepting lost or stray Proteus from anywhere in the Trebišnjica River Basin and that we will collect such individuals from any location in the river basin to safely return them to their natural underground habitat.

As with everything the "Proteus Project" does, there is a formal document explaining in great detail what this facility does, how it works and which also provides guidelines for the procedures that our field operatives must adopt when using it.  "Proteus Project" Primary Document 9.1.10. "Procedures for the Rescue and Care of Damaged and Undamaged Stray Proteus anguinus Specimens in the Trebišnjica River Basin." refers.
This Document sets out a standard process for dealing with such events and includes an associated strategy for promoting public awareness of the problem in order to encourage their pro-active co-operation and involvement.
.

.......Above :.. A stray un-injured Proteus being returned unharmed to the natural hypogean karst habitat in the "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium",
.......(Photo :  Dubravko Kurtović, 16 October, 2015.)
.
Veterinary Service :
Unlike our colleagues in Kranj Slovenia, we cannot offer a Veterinary Service to tend to washed-out damaged Proteus specimens.  The limited private-sector veterinary services currently provided in Trebinje are rudimentary, to say the least, and are not able to provide the specialist resources necessary to support the examination and on-going care of any damaged amphibians.
.



AN ECOTOURIST VISITOR LOCATION :
The "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium" will be on the Ecotourist Route of guided and unguided surface tours around the "Vrelo Vruljak" Biosphere Government Protected Area. As such, suitable signposting with information boards will be provided at this location. This Ecotourist Route is now in its early stages of preparation.  It will be a primary method of encouraging public awareness of the unique natural heritage and how to behave responsibly towards the karst environment.
The immediate area at the entrance to the Observatorium will be a principal location for posting public information about both the "Proteus Project" and the Vrelo "Vruljak" Government Protected Area.
.


CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT :
- Monitoring the Karst Environment :
Since the year 2000., the "Proteus Project" has been undertaking environmental physico-chemical and chemical analyses of the aquatic habitat in many locations across the geographical extent of the Project. This includes the many karst underground locations where Proteus is to be found.  We have accumulated a substantial results database.  Water quality analysis focusses on, but is not exclusive to the chemistry associated with the "karst process".
This work is undertaken to characterize and understand the ecological conditions of the aquatic habitats where Proteus still lives, where Proteus has never been observed and where Proteus used to live in the past but is not there now. It will also allow us to observe any long-term trends in changes that may occur to the water chemistry quality as well as helping to identify "contamination events" and tracing such events to their source(s).  Thus, such a facility underpins karst environmental conservation activities and objectives.
Such analytical techniques are currently undertaken using a very expensive system of portable, very high quality scientific equipment, which is taken and used anywhere we need to use it, both on the karst surface and in the underground cave systems.
To optimize the use of the present capabilities, the "Proteus Project" acquired a Land Rover Defender in 2015 to assist with the more efficient deployment of its volunteers and resources. The vehicle will be partly converted to support technical field-work and, when necessary, will carry an inflatable dinghy for deployment of field-workers in flooded areas.

These additional resources are funded and facilitated through a mutually agreed plan with The Devon Karst Research Society.

The "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium" at Vrelo "Vruljak 2" is, of course, one of the many locations belonging to the Vrelo "Vruljak" (Gorica) Karst Conduit-aquifer Hypogean part-Ecosystem which is being intensively monitored for the quality of its aquatic environment. Demonstrations of water quality testing methods and procedures will be given during advertised "open days" at the location. 
- Cleaning the Karst Environment :
The Gorica urban and rural district of Trebinje is one of the dirtiest areas in the Trebišnjica River Basin encountered by the "Proteus Project", where total disregard for the karst environment is endemic and out of control. As a consequence, Members of the "Proteus Project" spend much time and effort in trying to combat this problem by collecting and removing vast amounts of discarded domestic and commercial waste materials.  The area surrounding the "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium" is not exempt from this problem. Even the cave entrance was subjected to rubbish disposal before it was locked and gated. Although we can clean the public approach areas in the vicinity, we are not able to do so in the visible private areas adjacent to the location, or on the land either side, below and above it.  A strategy is being drafted to see if we can successfully intervene.


SPELEOBIOLOGY :
The "Proteus Project" has also been undertaking various speleobiological investigations to assess the faunal diversity of many locations.  One of the most intriguing areas of biodiversity assessment is with the identification of cave snails, which form an essential part of the nutrient supply for many hypogean crustaceans and Proteus
Practical demonstrations of some of the equipment used in this type of research will be offered during advertised "open days" at the "Trebinje Proteus Observatorium".
.

"Proteus Project" Introductory Webpage
.