Rebirth of European Ground Squirrel
The European Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) used to be a common agricultural pest in the 1950s. Forty years later it has become a critically endangered species threatened by extinction. These days, the population in the Czech Republic seems to be secured also thanks to the Action Plan and co-operation with local farmers.
The European ground squirrel is listed as being endangered by the IUCN in its Red List of Threatened Species. The species is covered by the Habitats Directive of the EU, and sites of its occurance are designated for its protection as part of the Natura 2000 network. Its main range of distribution covers south-eastern Europe. In the Czech Republic the species reaches the western most tip of its European range.
Actions to safeguard the species
Most colonies in the Czech Republic were of very small numbers and were threatened with destruction. Action plan for the species has been developed by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic in order to protect the species effectively.
The numbers of the ground squirrel have started to be thoroughly monitored, and programs of breeding in captivity and translocations have been initiated. Although several colonies collapsed the overall numbers have risen steadily.
Who is behind
Example to follow
An extensive LIFE project was implemented with the squirrel as a flagship species of the steppe biotopes in Ceske Stredohori Protected Landscape Area, Czech Republic.
The project aimed at sustainable use of the area, and helped to establish new entrepreneurs with herds of goats and sheep, and a cheese producing manufacture.This is a glaring example of how you can help biodiversity and support local economy.
The project won the Natura 2000 Award in 2014.
Tereza Brzobohata, European Ground Squirrel Action Plan co-ordinator
Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic
tereza.brzobohata (at) nature.cz