Ornithologists want to try to return the Golden Eagle to its natural habitat in the Beskydy Mountains. Choosing your baby's sex - some Czechs are going to the States to do it. And, young Czech men can now work as au-pairs abroad. Find out more in Magazine with Daniela Lazarova.

Golden Eagle,  photo: Juan Lacruz,  Creative Commons 3.0
Czech ornithologists in cooperation with their Slovak colleagues have launched an ambitious project to try to return the Golden Eagle to its natural habitat in the Beskydy Mountains. The Golden eagle, which once lived in both the Krkonose and Beskydy mountains, was eradicated in 1910, although in Slovakia it continued to breed and is a now a highly protected species. Slovak ornithologists have agreed to give their Czech colleagues four newly hatched eaglets every year. This should not harm Slovakia's own population of Golden Eagles because the younger birds are usually killed in the nest anyway. The first four eaglets are now being looked after by a "'surrogate mother", an eagle who was badly shot in 1977 and has lived in captivity since. The head of the Bartosovice Wildlife rescue centre - who just happens to be called Petr Orel, which in Czech means eagle - says that everything is going right according to plan. In a few weeks' time the eagles will be transferred to a big enclosure in the Beskydy Mountains, where they will eventually be let free. Within five to six years the eagles should begin to breed and start the country's new population of Golden Eagles - who will hopefully have a better fate than their predecessors.

Statistics suggest that the number of twins born in the Czech Republic is on the rise. Last year Czech women gave birth to close to two thousand twin babies - twice as many as in 1993. Doctors say that this is largely due to the fact that more women receive fertility treatment. However that is not the full explanation, because women who have not had fertility treatment and do not have twins in the family are also giving birth to twins or even triplets more often. Embryologists say this could be due to the higher incidence of estrogen in nature -and in our food chain.

Two new books about giving birth in the home have just hit bookshelves in the Czech Republic. Although this was not an option in the communist days, today around three percent of Czech women chose to give birth in their home with only a midwife present. Most Czech obstetricians tend to discourage this trend warning that if complications should arise both the mother and baby could be at serious risk. A few maternity wards in the Czech Republic now offer alternative births - in a bathtub of water or on a special birthing stool. And - a new maternity ward is now being established in Prague where mothers will be able to give birth with only a midwife present - but still be secure in the knowledge that there is a doctor in the building.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD is an in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique in which embryos are created outside the womb and then tested for genetic disorders and gender. When PGD was introduced back in 1989, it was used solely to help couples or individuals with serious genetic disorders in order to reduce their risk of having a child who suffered from the same condition. Today PGD is still used for this purpose. However a number of clinics in the United States now offer the technique as a means of sex selection for non-medical reasons. The method is said to be almost 100 percent effective. However for ethical reasons most European states, including the Czech Republic, do not allow PGD to be used for this purpose. But there's nothing to stop Czechs who have 20,000 US dollars (around half a million crowns) to spare from choosing their baby's sex at a clinic in the States. Several clinics have confirmed that they have treated clients from the Czech Republic and have more on their waiting list.

Czechs couples who need an egg donor also have some chance of determining what their baby is going to look like. Donors are free to leave a picture of themselves if they wish to do so and there is also confidential information about their height, eye-color, hair-color, blood type and so on. Only the doctor performing the IVF has access to this information and if his clients say they would like their baby to resemble them as much as possible - then the doctor will go out of his way to pick an ideal donor in terms of resemblance. However the future parents do not get to see any of the information or the donor's picture. The rest is up to Nature. Even so many Czechs see this as overstepping the boundaries of what medicine should be allowed and meddling in God's or Nature's work. There are still very many women in the Czech Republic who do not want to know their baby's sex right up until the birth - because, they say, it feels right that way.

In the past decade hundreds of Czech girls have opted to work as au-pairs abroad. Now - increasingly there is also a demand for young male au pairs and many Czech students are grabbing the opportunity. Pavel Kocanda from the British Contact agency says that British families in particular are asking for male au-pairs, especially where there are boys in the family. "They want a male role model, a sort of elder brother for their kids who will play football and tennis with them, drive them around and take an interest in their hobbies" Kocanda says. The demands made on male au pairs are the same as on girls - minding the children, driving them around and occasionally doing some housework. Here in the Czech Republic it is simply not an option - there is no interest whatsoever in taking on young men as au pairs. "Czech clients want girls or older women to mind their children" - says Pavlina Vojtova from the Slunecnice agency. There is still a widespread belief that young men are not very good when it comes to minding or feeding kids. No doubt that will change here as well, but for the time being the traditional division of roles in the family is still strong... .