#LoveSpecies nominee: European pond turtle
Nominated by: Polish Society for Nature Conservation “Salamandra”
Why do you love it?
The European pond turtle, also known as the mud turtle, is the only natural representative of turtles in Poland. Nowadays it is one of the rarest reptile species in the country and its secretive behaviour makes it very difficult to spot in the field. Consequently, it is not well-known species to the general public. Those who have been lucky enough to observe it in natural conditions agree that it is one of the most beautiful turtles in the world.
What are the threats to the European pond turtle?
The biggest threat to this species is degradation of its habitat due to humans (e.g. draining of the wetlands or agricultural activities on nesting sites). In the past European pond turtles were collected in a great numbers for food, especially around the Christian Lent celebrations when aquatic animals are traditionally consumed. Such an exploitation caused the local extinctions of many populations. Currently; however, one of the main drivers of this species’ decline is the illegal collection of European pond turtles to supply the pet trade. Luckily the scale of this collection is much smaller, but is still unsustainable. Other important threats include invasive turtle species (eg. red-eared sliders) which have been released to the wild by humans and compete with the European pond turtle for resources, such as food and basking sites, and are vectors of dangerous pathogens.
What are you doing to save it?
The Polish Society for Nature Conservation “Salamandra” is running a project focussed on the biggest population of European pond turtles in the Wielkopolska region in Poland. A telemetry survey was carried out to find out the nesting and hibernation areas and, on the basis of the collected data, conservation recommendations were created and are currently being implemented. The main problem in the area is the protection of nesting sites, which are based mostly on agricultural lands and therefore cooperation with local farmers plays a crucial role in this project.