With the onset of spring, the European sousliks in the last remaining colony in Natura 2000 area “Zapadna Strandzha” awoke from hibernation. The first sousliks were recorded on 19.02.2019, but then followed a long period of cold and unstable whether.
At the beginning of April, Dr. Yordan Koshev (from the Institute of Biological and Ecological Research - BAS and European Souslik Conservation Officer of the LIFE project "Land for LIFE") and Maria Kachamakova (PhD student at IBEI - BAS and collaborator of the project) held field study of the reinforced colony in the area.
The team found an increase in the numbers of the sousliks. 40% more individuals were caught compared to the same period in 2018. 60% of the sousliks were tagged in previous catches. Of all the catches, 35% of the animals originated from the endangered donor colony near Sliven. Almost all animals have external signs of reproduction.
Difficulty in the study of the density and the re-capture was the increased population of the Microtus hartingi, also called the Microtus guentheri.
In spite of the combination of the two species and the difficulties in the study of the sousliks, the results at the moment show a success in the transfer of the sousliks and colony growth in “Zapadna Strandzha”.
The colony of European sousliks near Sliven, donor of individuals, was also studied. All pastures that were destroyed in previous years are being cultivated. They have recently been planted with different crops, such as lavender, which makes them unsuitable habitat for the Sousliks. Conservation of the species in this area requires the common efforts of all relevant institutions and organizations because the existing legal framework and conservation status of the European souslik can not prevent the destruction of its pastures and colonies.
Photos: Y. Koshev / M. Kachamakova