site.btaProject Helps Preserve Habitats of Protected Species in SE Bulgaria
An ecological project helps preserve the habitats of endangered species in Southeastern Bulgaria, including seven species of bats, the European pond turtle, the European fire-bellied toad, and the Southern crested newt. The Toundzha Habitat project aims to preserve their populations in five Natura 2000 protected sites, Milen Gerganov of the EcoFoundation told BTA.
For two years and a half, ecologists and biologists have been studying and making effort to preserve these ten protected species in the Natura sites of Sakar mountain, along the Tundzha and Mochouritsa rivers, the St Ilia Heights, and the Bakadzhitsite hills near Yambol. They have fitted bats and turtles with motion tracking devices. They have built anti-fire depots equipped with thermal imaging drones in six villages of Toundzha Municipality to help manage fires faster and thus protect biodiversity. They have also held educational camps for students and a Bat Night Festival, Gerganov explained.
All studies under the project have been published. The observations confirmed that these ten species are endangered, particularly the bats of whom a very small number of individuals were registered. The measures already taken have began improving their habitats' state: European pond turtles and European fire-bellied toads have been seen in the wet zones built by the biologists, Gerganov noted.
According to him, the biggest threat to these protected species remains human activity. Habitat destruction is a major issue, with fires and farming leaving the animals without a home. Lack of information and fear prevent people from understanding the importance of reptiles and amphibians in an ecosystem, he argued. To that end, a broad information campaign has been conducted, particularly among children.
The Toundzha Habitat project is worth over BGN 1 million, provided under Operational Programme Environment 2014-2020.