Gea Chelonia Foundation: Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria: width=



Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria





Gea Chelonia Foundation: Tortoise Conservation in Bulgaria

Project title “Conservation measures of land tortoises: Spur-thighed and Spur-tailed (Testudo graeca ibera and Testudo hermanni boettgeri) in the south Black Sea Coast Region, Bulgaria"


The main goal of the project is to prevent the drastic decline of both species land tortoises in the Southern Black Sea Coast Region caused by expanding resort construction. We have had to designate vulnerable sites during the most advanced stage of destruction, organize rescue action and relocate as many tortoises as possible in suitable protected areas. The project is to last one year (June 2008 - June 2009).

Through using radio tracking equipment we will try to further estimate the adaptional success of the relocated specimens. This is the first radio telemetry study with chelonians in Bulgaria. The results obtained will contribute towards improving our work in the future.

Ropotamo is the nearest protected area and enjoys the status of a National Reserve. It is also home to stable populations of both species of land tortoises


During the course of the preliminary investigation, Cape Humata was chosen as the site in the most advanced stage of destruction, but still salvageable to a degree. In the target site tortoise habitats are being totally destroyed by construction of new hotel complexes. Between 18.07.08 and 28.07.08 the rescue action was successfully completed.


Tortoise release in the Ropotamo Reserve


More than 10 experts and volunteers participated in the rescue operation. After examination, measuring, deworming, marking, photographing etc. in the “Gea Chelonia Foundation” Tortoise Centre located in Banya village, 74 specimens from both species were relocated in the Ropotamo Protected Area. However 5 Testudo hermanni and 5 Testudo graeca adults are being kept in the Centre until early next spring when they will be released, fitted with the radio transmitters for radiotelemetric study.

During September 2008 Mr. James Buskirk - one of the project referees, managed to visit the Tortoise Centre in Banya village. He was apprised of all conservation activities and together we visited the target sites. With his assistance throughout the project we chose Advanced Telemetry Systems (ATS) as the most suitable equipment for our radio telemetry study. We are also grateful to Mr. Mike Jones and Mr. Tom Garin for their technical expertise conserning such equipment.



On the 29th of September we organized a meeting at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences where project activities were presented. Some of the leading Bulgarian herpetologists - Boyan Petrov, Andrey Stoyanov, Yurii Kornilev and Nikolay Tzankov - had the unique opportunity to discuss chelonian conservation and research, locally and worldwide with Mr. Buskirk.


Left to right, front: Mr. Ivo Ivanchev and Mr. James Buskirk
Left to right, back: Mr. Boyan Petrov, Mr. Andrey Stoyanov, Mr Yurii Kornilev and Mr. Nikolay Tzankov, herpetologist at BAS and University of Sofia


A lot of project publicity has been carried out within the country and also in “The Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter,” among the most respected turtle journals in the world. News stories covering the rescue-relocation action were broadcasted in the prime time news by two of the leading Bulgarian TV Channels. The project has been broadly promoted by the national electronic media- burgasnews, ecozone, go-starazagora, globerescue, netinfo, bluelink.



Our project in pictures

Distant view of Cape Humata The target site is already in an advanced stage of destruction This is what’s going on Ropotamo Protected Area, one of the sites where tortoises of both species are naturally presented it was selected as the most appropriate site for the relocation
Typical view of the building site The tortoises can't escape and become victims of the excavators. More than 10 experts and volunteers participated in the rescue operation. The team after field work.
Measuring and collecting data on each specimen. After examination in the Centre the tortoises were carried to the previously chosen site for release. The media were invited to cover the tortoise release. New r eports about the action were shown during prime time news broadcasts of some of the main TV channels.
The most rewarding part of the work We released all collected specimens Presentation at Balkani Wildwife Society Some publications in the electronic media
Radio tracking of the relocated tortoises
We are collecting valuable data on the adaptation success of the relocated tortoises and will continue the monitoring next year



The project is financed by People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)


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