|Date||11 Jul 2006|
The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) is included in the IUCN/SSC Red data book and the Red list of the Russian Federation, and CITES Appendix II. The status of the subspecies Testudo graeca nikolskii is most critical. It was widely distributed along the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus as recently as the first half of the last century. Recently, the distribution range of this turtle has decreased and is fragmented into genetically and steadily declining isolated populations.
The main limiting factors for this subspecies of turtle are the following: degradation of habitat as a result of intensive recreational exploitation of the territory within the distribution range of this species, which is almost totally located in a resort zone and uncontrolled over-collecting by tourists and animal dealers. The status of this subspecies is so critical that it can totally disappear within the next few decades.
We are profoundly convinced that only the immediate cooperative actions of expert herpetologists, conservation biologists, the general public, and official conservation and governmental institutions will be able to save the Mediterranean tortoise from its total disappearance.
This complex project includes:
2. Design a questionnaire for certain "target groups" (forestry staff, hunters, biology teachers and others) to determine the knowledge-base concerning habitats of turtles.
3. Organize trips to the field to obtain information, to monitor the status of current micro-populations, and to solicit an area that could correspond to all criteria for the organization of a turtle-breeding center.
4. Organize operational raids, including staff from official conservation institutions and police to the markets in the coast cities to stop the illegal trade of these turtles.
5. Design of a turtle-breeding center at the base one of protected territory of Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. This is planned as a protected guarded territory with an area of 1-3 hectares where optimal conditions for feeding, reproduction, and hibernation of the turtles occur. Turtles which have been voluntarily returned by their hosts or confiscated from animal dealers will be housed in this conservation center.
6. Project and secure new specially protected natural territories for the conservation of natural populations of the turtles.
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