A plot of land for susliks
Help us to help these crucially important (and cute!) little creatures to come back in numbers and to re-colonise lands where they used to live, in the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria. Susliks, or European ground squirrels, are vitally important to a wide range of rare raptors and predators, but they have increasingly disappeared over the last decades. When they disappear, so do also a long row of birds of prey that are dependent on the susliks. We are now buying up parcels of land that is of top value for the suslik colonies, to make sure these keystone animals thrive and can spread back also to their old grounds.
Urgent need for protection
In some parts of the area, these ground squirrels are disappearing because there are no large herbivores grazing there anymore, neither domestic nor wild, whilst in other parts of the area they disappear because of the ploughing up of suslik habitat – often a result of harmful EU farming subsidies, leading to pretended “farming” on pasture lands that have never been ploughed before! Also, the planting of crops lake sunflower and water melon close to suslik colonies cause conflicts since the ground squirrels are then often seen as causing damage to the crops and farmers try to get rid of them using poison and traps.
The suslik is one of the keystone species in the dry steppe ecosystems. They are small ground squirrels that live in colonies in holes in the ground, right out on the open steppe and are normally pretty good at reproducing themselves. As long as there is space for them, that is. This is something that make them very popular with all possible kinds of predators, from weasels and snakes all the way up to jackals and wolves, not to mention the whole array of about 25 species of raptors, where the eastern imperial eagle is the one maybe most specialised on susliks. When these sweet ground squirrels disappear, so do to a great extent also the predators that feed on them. The result is that biodiversity, the variety of life declines. Susliks really only need two kinds of help: they need large grazing herbivores, wild or domestic, that eat away the long and dry grass, so that these little guys can graze the short and greener grass, and they need areas where to live and feed that are not ploughed or bulldozed or built houses, roads or industries upon.
What will we do with your contribution, and what is your reward?
Buying core suslik homeland here costs about 2,500 euros per hectare. Land is being bought by the Rewilding Rhodopes initiative.
If you pay for at least 1 hectare, we will take you there on a 3-day trip around the area to see them. All you have to do is get to the Rhodopes and we will take care of the rest.
For at least 1,000 euros we will arrange a very generous discount for you on an adventure trip here.
For contributions over 300 euros, we will send you a box with a limited edition T-shirt, a copy of the Crossbill Nature Guide about the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria and Greece, together with some local products.
For any amount over 100 euros, you will get your own limited edition suslik T-shirt sent to your home.
Target: 25,000 euro = 10 hectares of core suslik habitat.
“The suslik colonies are real biodiversity hot spots. A lot of other rare species are also attracted there - from the elusive marbled polecat to the iconic saker falcon and the imperial eagle. By protecting suslik habitats we are also protecting many predators and rare birds of prey”.
Stoycho Stoychev, BSPB/BirdLife conservation director