Sousliks for the landscape, landscape for sousliks
Programme: Interreg VA Slovakia - Czech Republic
Together without borders / Together without borders
The project is also supported by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.
ALKA Wildlife, o.p.s. (Lead Partner)
DAPHNE - Institute of Applied Ecology (main cross-border partner)
NFP3040201154: 02/2018 - 01/2020
The European ground squirrel (European souslik or souslik) is an endangered species and one of Europe‘s rarest mammals. Currently, only 24 isolated localities are known across the programme area, scattered across the Trenčín, Trnava and South Moravian regions.
The aim of this project is to contribute to the rescue of sousliks across the programme area. Activities such as research, monitoring and education will be a main focus of the programme. The transference experience and the sharing information with the state administration advising on conservation priorities will also be a main focus. Recommendations for action and a data sharing tool will be created. The project will contribute to improving the environment for the pre-existing colonies of sousliks. In areas where they are present, ground squirrels will be promoted as a representative of local nature and a symbol of a well-preserved steppe agricultural landscape.
Project activities will happen in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia to develop a concise understanding of the population and for accurate protection measures to be developed. Both countries will monitor current known colonies and will map the occurrence of sousliks and search for unknown colonies to fill in the gaps in current data sets. The project will also research the genetic diversity of the populations of sousliks, study the environment they inhabit and assess the habitat suitability between populations. Subsequently, all knowledge will then be combined in a comprehensive analysis of population viability.
Measures to improve the condition and prevent deterioration of souslik populations are currently in place. In selected areas, these measures will be implemented, focussing around two key support methods:
- The first includes indirect support of the sousliks through habitat maintenance. This can include actions such as grass mowing, collection and sowing of calorific plants and herbs, tree maintenance such as planting fruit trees or grafting existing trees, preservation of meadows and regulation of pasture grazing.
- Secondly, measures such as replenishment of individuals, protection against predators, feeding, and building breeding facilities can provide direct support to the sousliks.
These measures will be implemented by project staff, through cooperation with landowners, farmers and the public.
As well as the implementation of these protective measures, the project will focus on increasing media coverage about sousliks. Education about sousliks in a community is vital for their protection. Members of a community who own gardens, orchards or vineyards can help protect sousliks or, on the contrary, endanger them with their actions. The education and cooperation of landowners is also crucial as the way local landscape is managed can directly influence the future development of a souslik population.
Education initiatives will take place through:
- Promotional events
- Website updates
- Information boards
- Development of teaching materials
Throughout the project, information and experience of project activities will be shared between the project partners.
Partner activity will take place through:
- A joint conference
- The creation of recommended measures
- The creation of an online souslik occurrence map
Data and other information generated from the project will be, in turn, transferred to government officials from local authorities up to regional and national administrations.
According to the Czech legislation, the European souslik is a critically endangered species and specifically, a protected species in the highest category. On the other hand, according to the Slovak legislation, it is a protected species of European significance, which has the status of ‚EN‘ according to the manual for the care of NATURA 2000 territory. Several activities of this project directly fulfil the measures set out in the Czech Rescue Programme such as restoration of sites with a suitable habitat, demographic research, education aimed at landowners and the creation of a catalogue of sites. In Slovakia, however, conceptual material focused directly on this species does not exist at the national level, but the project outputs will serve as a basis for the creation of a future Slovak Rescue Programme.