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The number of endangered sousliks is growing

The European ground squirrels, also known as the European sousliks woke up after long hibernation.

(Source: Maroš Detko)

European ground squirrels, also known as European sousliks, belong on the list of endangered animals. Environmentalists have been trying to save them with the project LIFE Energy. In the last two years, they have succeeded in renewing souslik populations in two localities in Slovenský kras.

“The European souslik used to be an ordinary species, but due to changes in farming in our country, it disappeared from many places,” said Lucia Deutschová, the coordinator of the LIFE Energy project.

Since 2003, LIFE Energy project has organised different activities to return sousliks to the Slovak wild. The project has dedicated special attention to two colonies of European sousliks – Hrhov and Gemerská Hôrka, which belong to Protected bird area Slovenský kras, Deutschová added. Sousliks are an important part of raptors’ diets, especially for Eastern Imperial Eagles and Saker Falcons.

“Since 2015, in both localities we have grown the area where the animals can live. We also feed the sousliks, mainly before winter and in the spring when they wake up after hibernation,” explained Ervín Hapl from Raptor protection, Slovakia.

At Gemerská Hôrka, he continued, when project started there were the last few individuals which would die out in two or three years. But in the autumn of last year 70 sousliks were observed. At the second place in Hrhov, the population in 2015 was 75 sousliks and in the autumn 2016 the number increased to 250, Hapl added.

“The first light beams woke up 80 sousliks in Gemerská Hôrka and 10 in Hrhov,” said Halp, adding that because of the long winter sousliks got up later than last year – in 2016 they woke at the end of February, this year the first sousliks got up at the beginning of March.

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