By Marián Páleník
Slovakia and Poland have initiated a cooperative programme to protect the dwindling marmot population in the Tatra Mountains. Conservationists from the Tatra National Park (TANAP) established a constant vigil last month to watch over Slovak territory where marmot colonies live and continued their effort until October 24. They were armed with binoculars, cameras and even a helicopter to intervene if they spotted a poacher. The effort was concentrated in Belianske Tatry and Západné.
There was success in the Belianske Tatry area several years ago in reintroducing marmots into the mountain range; the animals flourished and became self-sufficient. These marmots had been implanted with microchips so the colony could be monitored by authorities from TANAP. But three years ago the marmot population completely died out in Belianske Tatry – an occurrence experts blamed on natural predators as well as the actions of human poachers.
“They plug the ventilation [holes\, release gas, and the marmots are forced to crawl out of their den,” explained Pavol Majko, the director of TANAP, to the SITA newswire, adding that “the poachers then catch them in special traps or kill them.”
This year TANAP conservationists managed to record an attempted illegal poaching of marmots but the officials were unsuccessful in capturing or identifying the poachers. Pavel Ballo, one of the TANAP conservationists who witnessed the attempted poaching said he could not believe his eyes. Hikers in the region have found objects that indicate barbaric methods have been used to kill marmots: a pick axe, shovels, and gas canisters, alongside a steel trap that had the remains of a marmot’s paw. “Additional tools have been found by animal rights activists, who discovered wire nooses in the vicinity of the animals’ dens, along with claws and clumps of fur,” Majko told SITA. More....