Explore the fauna of Brijuni

Island fauna

The fauna of the Brijuni National Park is extremely rich, both in the number of individuals and in different species. The Veliki Brijun habitat has a surface area of 561 ha, which, with its specific microclimate, provides favorable conditions for numerous autochthonous (domestic) and allochthonous (imported) animal species. The diversity of the ecosystem contributes to this diversity - forests, maquis shrublands, grasslands and fresh waters are the focal points of biodiversity where you will encounter numerous types of invertebrates and vertebrates.
Extremely rich fauna

Animals roam free

Hares, deer, mouflons

The European hare (Lepus europaeus sp.) lived on the island and between 1902 and 1908 the axis deer (Aksis aksis), the fallow deer (Dama dama) and the mouflon (Ovis musimon) were imported, so their descendants still adorn the forests, parks and glades of Brijuni and are part of its identity.

Autochthonous world of birds

The autochthonous birds are quite well represented. Some of the smaller islands are excellent habitats where seagulls and terns nest, as well as some rare genuses of cormorants. Brijuni are also important seasonal habitats of northern bird species and the most interesting is the locality of Saline. It is a very damp area with three marshy lakes of 8 acres of fenced area with the aim of forming an ornithological reservation. The biggest lake is overgrown with reed and is a good nesting ground for pratincoles, quails, coots, grebes and wild ducks.

Underwater world

In the swamp mud and shallow water the birds find insects, mosquito larvae and gambusias, small fish that have had an important role in the recovery of the island from malaria at the beginning of the century. In this fenced area the underbrush and the low plant cover can grow undisturbed because there is no influence of game, therefore this habitat is ideal for many species of warblers, nightingales, blackbirds, chiffchaffs and other songbirds.

In the crowns of pines we can find nests of sparrow hawks, goshawks and common buzzards. Of other predatory birds there are the marsh harriers and moor harriers.

Migratory birds

By the end of the summer many different bird species come to Soline on their way to the south.

Already in August we can see widgeons, whistling ducks, diving ducks and swallow ducks.

Of herons we can see the little egret, the common heron, the yellow-crowned night heron and the rook.

The arrival of the great white egrets, the black storks and the bitterns indicates that this area is also important for such rare and endangered species, which here find their peace and sufficient quantity of food.

Exotic animals

Safari park

On the northern edge of Veliki Brijun, in an enclosed area stretching over 9 hectares, lies the Safari Park inhabited by an unusual combination of autochtonous Istrian and exotic South American, African and Asian fauna. Indian elephant Lanka, llamas - South American camels which, according to the native legend, were domesticated in the very beginnings of human existence, zebras, Indian sacred cows and ostriches are the friendly inhabitants of the Safari Park.

Exotic animals

On the left side of the entrance to the Safari Park you can see llamas roaming, South American camels, differing from the common camel because of its smaller body and relatively large, pressed together head with a pointed snout, large eyes and slender legs, with two toes that are set apart.  Llamas have no hump and are covered with long, thick wooly fur. They live in the high plains of the Cordilleras up to 4500 m above sea level.

The llamas are next to the steppe and mountain zebras which were received as a gift from Guinea in 1960 and 1961 from Sékou Touré, former president of the Republic of Guinea. In nature, the zebras live in the mountainous regions of southern and eastern Africa. Zebu or the sacred Indian cow (Bos indicus) was a gift from Indian statesman and politician Nehru, presented in 1959. These small sacred cows are in fact a dwarfish species of Indian sacred cows and share all the features of cattle, but are smaller in size and not as heavy.

Lanka the elephant

We arrive to Lanka the elephant, which came to Brijuni as a gift from Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972. This elephant is the favorite animal in the Safari Park. In nature, elephants live in the jungles of India, Sri Lanka, Borneo and Sumatra. Male elephants can weigh up to 6 tons which makes them the largest living mammals. Despite their impressive size, they have a light and barely audible gait since each foot has a thick pad of elastic tissue that acts as a cushion. An elephant touches, smells and breathes with its trunk, and even uses it to make sounds. It eats at least 80 kg of food a day and its trunk can fit 6-10 liters of water so it drinks up to 200 liters of water at once.

Autochthonous animals

Ethno Park

The ethno park is an area within the Safari Park presenting a typical Istrian homestead with its autochthonous animal species. Istrian ox (Boškarin), Istrian sheep (Istrian "Pramenka"), donkeys and goats.

It is intended both as a habitat and a presentation of domestic animals of Istria. There you can also see structures suitable for such farm animals, such as the Istrian open tetoja (covered area with feeder for farm animals).

Istrian ox (Boškarin)

Can the Istrian ox be classified as a "proto-ox”?

There are many theories about the origin of the Istrian ox, "boškarin". Some consider that it belongs to the breed of "Podolac" cattle that were brought to Istria with the Roman legions in the first centuries A.D. A well-known fact is that the hordes led by Atilla, king of the Huns in 452 brought with them "Podolac" cattle into these areas. Based on the remains of wild cattle from Istrian caves, over 10 000 years old, scientists claim that the Istrian ox is a lineal descendant of the wild European auroch.

Istrian sheep

The Istrian sheep originally comes from the Mediterranean sheep that was brought to Istria in the past. It is probable that this breed also developed from the Istrian breed "Pramenka". The breed can be divided into the large-sized sheep (southern Istria), and small-sized sheep (Labin area and eastern Istria).

>Regardless of different theories about the origin of this breed, it is certain that a more developed sheep giving a large amount of milk has emerged in this geographically isolated area.

Bird reserve

Saline

In the deep southern bay of Veliki Brijun behind Cape Gromače lies the bird reserve Saline. It stretches over an area of 7 hectares, characteristic for its swampy plants and three  small lakes. Within the complex of the largest lake, hidden by the reed lies a secluded small island with a straw-covered hut where Josip Broz Tito used to relax while listening to birds singing.

Bird reserve

This bird reserve developed on the remains of medieval salt pans used for the production of salt, which then again originated from ancient salt pans, traces of which are still visible today along the sea coast. The significance and importance of the salt pans can best be seen in documents stating that the profit of Brijuni's salt sale is "an extraordinary profit for the Venetian Republic” or if you are planning to start your own salt production then you should "visit the salt pans Inzulae Brionorum that have been an example of top quality activities for centuries”. With the land-reclamation works in 1960 the area of salt pans was filled in; two small lakes were formed and in 1973 the third one was added. At that time the largest lake and the surrounding area adopted their final functional and landscape form, so that this area became a meeting place for resident and migratory bird species, a true ornithological park.

Ornithological park

Today Brijuni ornithological park offers a fascinating and idyllic image of various bird species swimming in the small lakes or hiding in the Mediterranean shrublands or swampy plants. This rare and exceptional area, truly different from the usual Istrian landscape, can be easily reached except at the time of

nesting (April and May) while walking around the small lake or from a bird's-eye view from several elevated observation posts. Apart from presenting the rich variety of wildlife, for some lucky ones Brijuni ornithological park offers a possibility of dining inside the straw hut accompanied by birds' singing.

The exceptionally rich fauna of the Brijuni Islands will impress even the most demanding nature lovers.
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