Croatian Photo-Herp Trip
Zagreb & Istria


April 29th to May 3rd 2013

Map of the Balkans showing location of Croatia (Republik Hvratka in Croatian)
and the route to the Istria Peninsula
(click on map to enlarge)

All photographs copyright Mark O'Shea, unless otherwise indicated

I was invited to make my first trip to Croatia, to visit a snake exhibition and spend some time in the field with Croatian herpetologists searching for and photographing the native herpetofauna. The entire trip consisted of three field days and one zoo day and also involved several interviews for Croatian television channels.

From the UK:
Mark O'Shea

In Croatia (Hrvatksa):
Neven Vrbanić (herpetologist, organiser of Čudesan Svijet Zmija "Magic World of Snakes" exhibition)
Mladen Zadravec (herpetologist)
Ivo Peranić (herpetologist, Zagreb Zoo)
Dušan Jelić (leader, Olm conservation project)
Ivan Cizelj (Curator of fish, amphibians and reptiles, Zagreb Zoo)

On Monday 29th April I flew to Zagreb, Croatia, from Birmingham, via Brussels, with Brussels Airlines and Croatia Airlines, arriving in the evening. Neven met me at the airport and took me to the Palace Hotel where we dined, drank a few beers and discussed the plans for the following four days.

I was ostensibly visiting Croatia at Neven's invitation, to visit his educational exhibition Čudesan Svijet Zmija (Magic World of Snakes) in a large shopping mall in Zagreb, and to do a number of interviews about reptiles and my work for Croatian television. Neven had also lined up some of the best herpetologists in Zagreb to take me out into the field in search of native reptiles and amphibians, three field trips for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Friday. My final day was given over to a visit to Zagreb Zoo before my flight home.

The species I most wanted to see in the wild, my primary target species, were the Balkan adder, Vipera berus bosniensis; the Nose-horn viper, Vipera ammodytes, and the Olm, Proteus anguinus. The two snakes had been on our list when we visited Thrace, Greece in 2012, but although one Nose-horn viper was sighted briefly on that trip it had evaded capture and photography and we also never made it to the Balkan adder habitats. The Olm exhibits and extremely limited distribution in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and I had never been within its range before. Of course any other reptiles and amphibians encountered were also fair game for the cameras.

As I have stated before in these photo-trip reports I shall not provide precise locality data for vulnerable species or their habitats. This is in deferrence to the concerns of the Croatian herpetologists who are worried about unlawful collecting. It is a shame this is necessary but this journal is not intended as a blue-print for those who would collect and take away these wonderful animals, whether for personal collections or commercial gain, either way we disapprove!
Real reptile lovers do not harm wild populations.

Croatia was formerly part of the Kingdom of Serbia (1918-1943), became part of Yugoslavia (1943-1991) and achived independence in 1991. To the north lie Slovenia and Hungary, to the east Serbia, to the south Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro and to the west the Adriatic Sea. The total country has an area of 54,594 sq km and a population of around 4.3 million. The capital is Zagreb, the city into which I arrived.

Croatia is divided into 21 counties. The planned field trips would take place in Zagreb County in the north bordering Slovenia, then we would drive through Karlovac and Primorge-Gorski Kotar to reach Istria, a peninsula county in the extreme northwest of the country, also with a border with Slovenia.


Mark O'Shea with his host Neven Vrbanic and Neven's wife Elena and son Luka
at the
Čudesan Svijet Zmij exhibition in Zagreb
Photo: Neven Vrbanic


1. Zagreb, Zagreb County
a) Western Medvednica, Zagreb County
b) Velika Gorica, Turopolje, Zagreb County

2. Zagreb to Istria County
a) Novigrad, Istria County

3. Amphibians:
a) Frogs & Toads recorded during the field trip
b) Newts & Salamanders recorded during the field trip

4. Reptiles:
a) Lizards recorded during the field trip
b) Snakes recorded during the field trip

5. Croatian Television

Expedition Results - a full herp life-list of the herpetofauna from the trip.

Planning your own herp-photo trip to Croatia
click here for field guides