The significance of the Škocjan Caves

The Škocjan Caves remain the only monument in Slovenia and the Classical Karst region on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites. Thus, they hold a significant position among the world’s natural monuments.
In addition to our caves, only those in the border area between Hungary and Slovakia (Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst), Mammoth Caves and Carlsbad Caverns in the USA have received the same honour. Other caves have been entered as cultural monuments (for example Altamira in Spain and the prehistoric sites and cave paintings of the Vézere Valley in France). The entry itself is important from different perspectives: most significantly, that the Škocjan Caves have gained worldwide recognition and that the state has committed itself to doing everything in its power to conserve and protect this outstanding natural site.

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The preparations for the establishment of the Škocjan Caves Regional Park began in the early 1990s, with the Škocjan Caves Regional Park Act adopted in 1996. A year later, the Public Service Agency, which presently employs 16 people, began its operation as the Park's managing authority. In addition to adopting programmes for protection and development of the Park, constantly monitoring and analysing the status of natural and cultural heritage, the Public Service Agency performs numerous other tasks: it is responsible for the promotion of the caves, research activity, education, infrastructure maintenance, as well as other activities. Co-operation with local residents is also important, especially those who are able to benefit from the Park’s establishment.

The rapid development of the area that used to be a demographically and economically endangered region is reflected in the fact that the Park has obtained membership in various international institutions, which greatly contributes to the quality economic development both within the Divača Municipality and the Karst in Slovenia in general.

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At the onset of the new millennium, the Park joined the Alpine Network of Protected Areas, became a member of the Europarc Organization, which organizes international workshops and seminars in which the Škocjan Caves Park regularly participates. Finally, the Park was entered on another list under the auspices of UNESCO: The Ramsar Directory of Wetlands of International Importance, which includes wetlands which are important especially as waterfowl habitats. The Škocjan Caves were included in this list due to their important natural habitat comprising highly specialised and often endemic land and water cave animal species, among them the endemic cave salamander (Proteus anguinus).

Prepared by: Borut Peric