In December 2015, the Slovenian government erected a razor wire fence along the Slovenian-Croatian border to try and control the influx of refugees that were, at the time, coming into the EU from the East. According to Slovenia, its border with Croatia is part of the main migration route towards Austria, Germany and other desirable countries for the refugees, despite it actually holding no real significance in that regard. Nevertheless, and despite evoking scepticism and protests from the locals, the razor fence was put up and currently stretches on for approximately 180 km, in a few sections, along the 667,8 km long border.
The main problem with the fence is not its ineffectiveness, although that’s a huge part of it, but the fact that animals get caught in it. This particular region of Europe is one of the last places on the continent where a healthy population of wildlife can be found, such as deer, bears, lynxes and the highly endangered wolf. However, the fence might bring an end to this diversity.
Many animals got caught in the razor-wire fence, mostly during the first few months of its erection. Animals were accustomed to their usual paths of migration and often strayed into the fence while foraging, and once snagged they entangle themselves even further in the hopes of escaping, before eventually dying of blood loss, or exhaustion. A proper estimation of animal death in regards to this is hard to come by since not all animals die in the fence, some make it out but eventually die as far as 15 km away from the border. Another problem is that while the government tries to keep the numbers as low as possible to avoid public persecution, the local hunters try to hide the real numbers in fear of lowering the annual hunting quota, and since hunting tourism is quite popular in the region a decrease in the quota would have crippling effects on the local economy.
Even though the amount of dead animals is staggering the real outcome of the fence is yet to be felt, a paper published by PLOS Biology predicts The End of the Transboundary Paradigm. The paper’s authors claim: “(…) it would appear that geopolitical change has occurred at such a pace that conservation biologists have been left behind so that, while the transboundary paradigm has been advocated, it has been rendered less practical in many areas by the expansion and upgrading of border fences”.
I’ve been conversant with the razor-wire border fence for a time now in one way or another. Since most of my free time is spent in these exact woods and mountains I felt very drawn in addressing the problem through photography. After spending a substantial amount of time talking to hunters, rangers, locals and even border police in the search of a protagonist and antagonist, I realised that the issue is not as tangible as I predicted, but is a result of a complex geopolitical situation. The problem at hand, unfortunately, is not something that is unique to the region and focusing on one particular person or place would not do it justice, which is why I chose to create a picture series.
All photographs were taken on a 3 km stretch of razor-wire on the northern part of the Cicarija mountain in the early morning hours during which animals migrate the most. Interestingly, during that time the fence is almost invisible, since it blends to the background due to its small diameter and the fact that it is often overgrown by high grass and foliage. By using an off-camera flash, I illuminated sections of the fence to enhance the feeling of an endless stretch. Every now and then I would encounter scattered parts of the fence; according to the local hunters these were the places where the animals were trapped and in an effort to escape ripped out pieces of the fence. The animals that died in the fence were hastily removed by the local hunters and I was unable to find a single one, while the ones that were able to escape, died soon after somewhere along the border.
A year has passed since this fence had been raised as a result of a half-a-century long war some 2,500km away, and it’s slowly becoming a gruesome reminder of not just local tragedies, but how our actions have widespread consequences indeed.