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Radical conservation measures implemented in Croatia

Although you would never say, but there is one totally amazing species of lizards living in Croatia. This lizard is a member of a tropical skink family Scincidae. The vast majority of species of this family inhabits tropical jungles, deserts and exotic islands, but snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) finds its home in Eastern Europe.Croatia is inhabited by this species in only two really small areas the size of a football field (in the Nature Park „Papuk" and in town of Ilok, eastern Croatia).

 

This species is closely connected to specific habitats of steppe-forest (oak and black ash) that are in Croatia extremely endangered and rare. Due to the lack of quality habitat, snake-eyed skink is also an endangered species, and over the last five years Croatian Herpetological Society and Public institution of Nature Park „Papuk" are implementing the project of preserving these fascinating animals. Given that the population in the Park is limited to two very narrow areas of the mountain peaks Turjak and Pliš (above the city of Velika) it was decided to make the intentional transfer into two new mountain peaks, where there is also a perfect steppe-forest habitat, but snake-eyed skinks have never been recorded. This measure is expertly defined as the intentional introduction (translocation) by IUCN, and it is for the first time used in Croatia and in the Balkan region. Previous cases of reintroduction of the lynx and beaver in Croatia were related to the transfer of new individuals to the sites where these species were already historically known, but for different reasons they disappeared (therefore called reintroduction). Although any kind of animal or plant introduction is strictly prohibited in Croatia by Nature Protection Act, it was decided that only with such radical measures it will be possible to save this endangered species from extinction. Nature impact study included three possible models of translocation, of which we elected model "from the wild back into the wild" which involves the transfer of males and pregnant females from one habitat directly to another (without captive breeding).Ablepharusuma Papuk
The aim of this intentional introduction to two new habitats on peaks Lapjak and Toplička glava was to increase the number of separate subpopulations, from two to four, and thereby increase the area of habitat, number of individuals and the health of the entire population (genetic fitness). Until now, there was a high risk of catastrophic events (fire, disease, etc.) to destroy all 1-2 acres of habitat and thus eradicate the entire skink population. In the case of the four separate habitats and subpopulations, this scenario is far less realistic.

Given that this is a strictly protected and endangered species of lizard, nature impact study for the implementation of the project has passed the evaluation of the competent Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection and the State Institute for Nature Protection. This study showed that introduction of snake-eyed skink will not have a significant environmental impact on the new habitat. Introduced populations will be monitored over the next five year period to confirm the successful introduction.

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