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      Translocations of European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) along altitudinal gradient in Bulgaria – an overview

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      Nature Conservation

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) is a vulnerable species (IUCN) living in open habitats of Central and South-eastern Europe. Translocations (introductions, reintroductions and reinforcements) are commonly used as part of the European ground squirrel (EGS) conservation. There are numerous publications for such activities carried out in Central Europe, but data from South-eastern Europe, where translocations have also been implemented, are still scarce. The present study summarises the methodologies used in the translocations in Bulgaria and analyses the factors impacting their success. Eight translocations of more than 1730 individuals were performed in the period 2010 to 2018. These included 4 reinforcements, 3 reintroductions and 1 introduction. Two of the translocations are still ongoing. Five of the completed six (83%) translocations were successful, although in two cases the number of individuals was critically low. The relatively higher success in Bulgaria than in Central Europe is probably due to using the gained experience. Most of the translocations (6) used a soft release approach. In 6 cases, the animals settled 100 to 720 metres away from the release site, implying management and protection of suitable habitat beyond the translocation area. In 7 of the translocations, the altitude between the donor colony and the release site varied from 470 to 1320 m which could have a hindering effect on the adaptation of animals due to the specific conditions in the mountains. The main reasons for failure are probably poorly selected and maintained habitats and bad climatic conditions (rainy and cool weather) during the translocation action. European funds are of critical importance for translocations, with only two translocations funded by other sources. Based on the gathered data, the current paper also gives some recommendations for improvement in translocation activities.

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          Most cited references 14

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          Revisiting translocation and reintroduction programmes: the importance of considering stress

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            Reintroduction of captive-born animals

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              Mitochondrial phylogeography of the European ground squirrel, Spermophilus citellus, yields evidence on refugia for steppic taxa in the southern Balkans.

              The spatial genetic structure of the European ground squirrel, a species characteristic of the short-grass steppe, was investigated on the basis of a 1140-bp cyt b gene sequence. The phylogeographical architecture of this species is expected to shed light on the putative long-term presence of the steppic ecosystem in south-eastern Europe and the evolutionary consequences of glacial cycles as forcing factors in speciation. Among 31 haplotypes, three highly divergent phylogenetic lineages (Southern, Northern and Jakupica) were recognized. This result suggests the past existence of an allopatric fragmentation event caused by effective biogeographical barriers. The Southern lineage consisted of the southernmost populations, those from Greece, Macedonia and European Turkey, and showed the highest divergence from all other samples. Haplotypes of the Northern lineage showed little geographical structure, with dispersal on both sides of the Danube River and in both of the two main geographical fragments of the species. The Jakupica lineage is a geographical isolate on a high plateau in central Macedonia. The estimated time for divergence of the Southern lineage (ca. 0.58 Mya) suggests the long-term persistence of a short-grass steppic refugium in the southern Balkans. Although the divergence between the Northern and Jakupica lineages occurred more recently (ca. 0.3 Mya), it still putatively predates two glacial cycles. The three phylogeographical lineages of the European ground squirrel should be regarded as independent units for conservation management purposes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Conservation
                NC
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-3301
                1314-6947
                June 20 2019
                June 20 2019
                : 35
                : 63-95
                Article
                10.3897/natureconservation.35.30911
                © 2019

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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