Balkan Pond Turtle Discovered Along Dubrovnik's River Ombla

As Morski writes on the 2nd of May, 2019, after a Balkan pond turtle (Mauremys rivulata) was found along Dubrovnik's Ombla river last year, the news was picked up by the expert public.

Zvonimir Pandža from Rijeka Dubrovačka (Dubrovnik River) found the turtle, and owing to his discovery, he confirmed concretely that the species is in actual fact not extinct in the Ombla river, which was the overall consensus until now. According to locals who live along the Ombla, Balkan pond turtles were a relatively common sight up until the Homeland War broke out. After the war ended, different interventions had been taking place in its natural habitat, which is why the turtles had unfortunately been brought to the brink of extinction over just a few years.

The next important step was to conduct a survey to determine whether or not there were still any individual Balkan pond turtles living in and along Dubrovnik's Ombla river. This research and evaluation was financed by Dubrovnik-Neretva County and was carried out by the Hyla Association in coordination with the Public Institution for Management of Protected Areas of Nature of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. The first survey results, carried out in April 2019, are above all expectations, as they proved that two more river turtle species have been found living along Dubrovnik's Ombla river. There is now a realistic possibility that there is still a small population of Balkan pond turtles living permanently at that location.

The study also includes other animal groups that inhabit this more quiet and rural area of Dubrovnik, with the aim of collecting data on the remaining natural values ​​of this protected area. We are witnessing the increasing urbanisation of the surrounding area of ​​Dubrovnik, and with the proper care and adequate spacial planning, there is still a good possibility of preserving its natural world and its native species, including the river and pond turtles.

The deaths of established populations of creatures such as Balkan pond turtle along the Ombla river is a perfect example of how nature and its species can disappear almost entirely in just a few years if proper spacial planning is not taken into account. The decision now lies solely with us - Do we want to preserve the natural world and its animals of the areas in which we live?

Dubrovnik-Neretva County is the only area in the whole of the Republic of Croatia where both types of freshwater turtles (Balkan pond turtles and European river turtles) can be found. Both species are strictly protected, and the river turtle holds the unfortunate status of an endangered species.

The largest population of such river turtles lives in Konavle, the southernmost municipality of Croatia which borders Montenegro, and a population of them appears stable in the village of Majkovi. In Stonsko Polje, Dubrovnik's Ombla River and the delta of the Neretva River, such turtles unfortunately find themselves on the verge of extinction, and it is still not clear whether or not there is a population near Lumbarda at all.

The main threats to the survival of river and pond turtles are the expansion of construction zones into their habitat and the deliberate release of foreign, invasive types of turtles that are frequently kept as pets.

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