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Six European pond turtles, a species in danger of extinction in Catalunya, released into the lake Ivars i Vila-sana


The Consortium of Lake Ivars i Vila-sana, the Obra Social de CatalunyaCaixa, the Centre de Recuperació d’Amfibis i Rèptils de Catalunya (Centre for the Recovery of Amphibians and Reptiles of Catalonia) (CRARC), and the University of Lleida (UdL) have collaborated since July 2010 on a project to reintroduce into Lake Ivars i Vila-sana the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), a protected species at high risk of extinction in Catalonia.

As part of this project, this Tuesday, 19 April 2011, six turtles were released into an acclimatization pond (300 square metres with a maximum depth of 60 centimetres) next to Lake Ivars i Vila-sana. This pond will be used to prepare other specimens for release into different parts of the lake in the future.

Specifically, the turtles released are five adults and one juvenile, belonging to haplotype V, a lineage found in Catalonia, Valencia, the south of France, the west of Italy, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, and Sardinia. All the specimens have until now been living in the facilities at the CRARC in Masquefa, where they were collected from different sources, such as captures from the wild, donations, or police seizures.

The controlled release will allow careful monitoring of their life cycle. During this period and until completion of the project, researchers at the University of Lleida’s Departament de Producció Animal (Department of Animal Production) will be responsible for the radio tracking of specimens, which are tagged with an identification chip.

The project to introduce the European pond turtle into Lake Ivars i Vila-sana, financed the Obra Social de CatalunyaCaixa and the Consortium of Lake Ivars i Vila-sana, has a budget of € 7,797. Its aim is to help reduce the risk of extinction of this reptile by establishing a stable population in a habitat that is considered to be a priority for conservation. The project, which will be evaluated in 2012, has also led to the installation of different traps to capture allochthonous reptiles, such as Florida softshell  turtles.

Currently, the only European pond turtle populations recorded in Catalonia are in the Ebro Delta, the marshes of the Empordà, Baix Ter, and the Pla de la Selva, the last of which is the only one which can be said to be in relatively good condition. In other locations, the populations are much smaller, although some, such as the ones in Banyoles, are the subject of a conservation project.