Around Slovakia

Mammals not going extinct in Slovakia
Otto von Habsburg celebrates 87th birthday
Big fire at major gas pipeline
Crowds descend on High Tatras for New Year's Eve
Truck driver murder investigation wrapping up

Mammals not going extinct in Slovakia

No mammal species have gone extinct in Slovakia over the past few years, reported Anton Kristin of the Slovak Academy of Science's Forest Ecology Institute on November 20. Speaking at an international conference called the Research and Protection of Mammals in Slovakia, Kristin said that several species, such as the elk and beaver, have actually returned to areas they had not inhabited for several years.
Slovakia is home to over 100 mammal species. Although the conference was generally positive about the protection of animals in the country, experts warned that the populations of polecats, marmots, lynxes, wild cats and wolves are so low that they have been put on the list of endangered species.
The over 80 participants in the conference focused on the expansion and protection of wolves. While Slovak hunters claim that over 1,200 wolves roam Slovakia's mountainous regions, experts at the conference said that fewer than 500 actually exist.
Other topics discussed at the conference were plans for international co-operation on a study of lynxes, the mapping of otters in the Hornád and Torysa rivers, owls in central Slovakia and the important areas of gopher populations.

Archduke Otto von Habsburg (left) meets President Schuster (right).

Otto von Habsburg celebrates 87th birthday

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, the chairman of the Pan-European Union and a member of the European Parliament, celebrated his 87th birthday on November 20 by taking a cruise on the ship Morava around the Gabčíkovo dam with his wife and son. The Hapsburg family ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire from 1526 until 1918 when the monarchy was dissolved.
Later that day, von Habsburg held talks with President Rudolf Schuster, who presented him a crystal vase as a birthday gift. The two leaders then discussed Slovakia's integration efforts into western bodies as well as developing relations with neighbouring countries.
Von Hapsburg, who is an honorary citizen of 34 Hungarian towns, told the press after the meeting that he was happy with Slovakia's progress in the field of national minorities, but that he feared a worsening of the already fragile relations between Slovakia and Hungary. "I am glad that both countries are headed for the European Union," he added.

Big fire at major gas pipeline

The "Bratstvo" (fraternity) pipeline, which transports natural gas from the Ukraine to Slovakia, erupted at 3:47 a.m. on November 21, sending a ball of fire 60 metres high near the town of Tomášová. The blast left a crater two metres deep and five metres by nine metres wide, and damaged a 10 to 12 metre section of the pipeline.
Fire fighters from every district in the Banská Bystrica region were called to the scene and successfully doused the flames. According to Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel's (Slovak Gas - SPP) Lučenec branch office director Ivan Janák, no further risk of fire exists. No casualties or ecological damage were reported.

Vysoké Tatry
Crowds descend on High Tatras for New Year's Eve

Hotels and other accommodation facilities in the Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras) mountains in northern Slovakia reported that they will be "bursting at the seams" on New Year's Eve. Hotel managers said that almost every available room in the region has long been booked.
Approximately 71% of the 'Silvester' (New Year's Eve) celebrants will be Slovak. Other tourists will come predominantly from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and from countries of the former Soviet Union. High Tatra visitors may be disappointed this year, however, as the use of fireworks has been banned by the Order of Visitors of the High Tatras National Park.

Truck driver murder investigation wrapping up

At a press conference in Bratislava on November 22, Slovak Police Chief Jan Pipta announced that a total of 18 members of an international gang which kidnapped and murdered truck drivers on Austrian and Italian soil have so far been apprehended by Austrian, Serb and Slovak police. Of the 18 arrested, 12 are Serb and six are Slovak or Czech.
To date, Pipta added, the group has admitted to the murder of 10 truck drivers, although only five of the bodies have been recovered. Most of the trucks and their goods are also missing and are believed to be in Serbia. Serb police are currently searching the country's southern regions for the missing trucks.
Pipta also expressed his gratitude to the Austrian and Serb police forces for their co-operation in the investigation.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR

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