Last week a team from BSPB and Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research made a rescue relocation of the sousliks from the colony near Maglizh within the Life for Falcons project. 97 individuals were caught and relocated in a new and safe habitat. A photovoltaic park will be built on the area which they inhabited. The place we have chosen for the relocation is a pasture, owned by the BSPB in protected area Zapadna Strandzha, part of the Natura 2000 network. This will guarantee the preservation of the habitat for the new colony. Before the relocation of the sousliks in the new place, new holes of suitable size were dug to be used as temporary shelters for adaptation. Releasing of the sousliks in their new habitat is made in small temporary cages which gives them the opportunity to get out to the surface, while staying in place until the initial shock of the relocation has subsided. The souslik have been fed daily with grains, fruits and vegetables and are under the surveillance of the theriologist, supporting their adaptation to the new environment.
This is the second attempt in the relocation of the colony since June when our experts discovered that the young sousliks have not been fully grown to be relocated safely and survive by their own. The building of the photovoltaic park has been delayed in order for the relocation to be finished.
The backstory goes back to early spring when during their regular monitoring Green Balkans’ team found out about the initiated destruction of a souslik colony near Maglizh. After the signal send to the RIEW Stara Zagora and Maglizh municipality a checkup has been made and the investor received charges to stop the construction and to apply actions to mitigate the negative impact on the colony. Together with the IBER-BAS experts the company building the photovoltaic park developed a program for the lessening the effects from the construction and the exploitation of the park upon the souslik population and other biodiversity elements, which is still to be implemented. Some of the measures in the program are preserving a belt of 45 dka which won’t be built upon in the place with the highest concentration of sousliks; they will continue living on it. Photovoltaic will be located at a distance and the grass below them will not be treated with herbicides. The area will be used for animals grazing and mowing in order for its natural characteristics to be preserved. During the construction of the park the investor will apply measures for preserving the vegetations and lessening the effects of it on the terrain. Monitoring of the sousliks during a minimum of 5 years period will be made within the park premises in order to estimate the effect of the measures. Simultaneously the IBER-BAS and BSPB teams will make a regular monitoring of the relocated sousliks in order to follow the development of the new colony.
It is important to underline that this is a mitigating activity which is planned only because the construction of the park has already started. Building of the new photovoltaics should not be a reason for destruction of pastures and meadows which is inhabited by rare and protected species. Construction of the new solar parks should be made in the urban areas and already degraded areas near settlements where the consumption of the energy or its losses will be optimal. This should be regulated in a new plan for renewable energy which will be prevent the chaotic development of the sector and the destruction of the valuable nature habitats. Infrastructural projects which threaten the biodiversity and the habitats should be allowed after the relevant procedures of risk assessment and the assessment of the cumulative effect of the different infrastructural project in the area. In this regards BSPB shared with the MOEW and the Executive Environment Agency the current data for the distribution of the souslik in Bulgaria, gathered in the SmartBirds.
Photos: Dimitar Gradinarov