Balkani Wildlife Society

apt., Bulgaria

Balkani Wildlife Society

apt., Bulgaria
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Kaphegyi T.A.M.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Dees M.,GeoFIS | Zlatanova D.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Ueffing C.,GIS and Remote Sensing Consultant | And 2 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2013

Many Eastern European countries still host landscapes with high value due to their habitat quality and size. Some of these countries are new member states of the European Union, and EU-accession is accompanied by huge investments in the development of traffic infrastructure. Environmental assessments mandatory for road constructions in the EU do not necessarily require explicit measures for the mitigation of fragmentation, and technical constructions associated with road building are frequently assumed to provide sufficient possibilities for wildlife crossings. We evaluated those technical structures at two motorway sections separating relevant subpopulations of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Bulgaria. Our assessment revealed that the permeability of the two motorways has been considerably overestimated. A total of just 13 out of the 77 potential crossing possibilities of the two roads together meet the requirements we defined for suitable wildlife crossings. We found that the potential for improvement of the crossing functionality of already existing technical facilities along the motorways is very limited. Given the dependence on a small number of habitat paths connecting suitable crossings with habitat on both sides of the road, connectivity between subpopulations is vulnerable to fragmentation impacts. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Frosch C.,Senckenberg Research Institutes | Dutsov A.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Georgiev G.,Regional Environmental Inspectorate of Ministry of Environment and Water Smolyan 16 | Nowak C.,Senckenberg Research Institutes | Nowak C.,Biodiversity and Climate Research Center
Forensic Science International: Genetics | Year: 2011

Fatal bear attacks on humans are extremely rare across Europe. Here we report a fatal bear attack on a man in Bulgaria. We used microsatellite analysis for bear individualization based on hair samples found near the man's corpse. The genetic profile of the killing bear was compared to that of a bear shot three days later near the killing scene. Our results show that the wrong bear has been shot. Shortly after our results were reported a second person was attacked by a bear nearby. This case documents the importance of forensic DNA analysis following severe wildlife attacks in order to improve wildlife management actions in regions were direct human-bear conflicts are likely to happen. © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Chapron G.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Kaczensky P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Linnell J.D.C.,Norwegian Institute for Nature Research | Von Arx M.,KORA | And 76 more authors.
Science | Year: 2014

The conservation of large carnivores is a formidable challenge for biodiversity conservation. Using a data set on the past and current status of brown bears (Ursus arctos), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), gray wolves (Canis lupus), and wolverines (Gulo gulo) in European countries, we show that roughly one-third of mainland Europe hosts at least one large carnivore species, with stable or increasing abundance in most cases in 21st-century records. The reasons for this overall conservation success include protective legislation, supportive public opinion, and a variety of practices making coexistence between large carnivores and people possible. The European situation reveals that large carnivores and people can share the same landscape.

Moura A.E.,Durham University | Moura A.E.,University of Lincoln | Tsingarska E.,BALKANI Wildlife Society | Dabrowski M.J.,Polish Academy of Sciences | And 4 more authors.
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2014

European wolf (Canis lupus) populations have suffered extensive decline and range contraction due to anthropogenic culling. In Bulgaria, although wolves are still recovering from a severe demographic bottleneck in the 1970s, hunting is allowed with few constraints. A recent increase in hunting pressure has raised concerns regarding long-term viability. We thus carried out a comprehensive conservation genetic analysis using microsatellite and mtDNA markers. Our results showed high heterozygosity levels (0.654, SE 0.031) and weak genetic bottleneck signals, suggesting good recovery since the 1970s decline. However, we found high levels of inbreeding (FIS = 0.113, SE 0.019) and a Ne/N ratio lower than expected for an undisturbed wolf population (0.11, 95 % CI 0.08-0.29). We also found evidence for hybridisation and introgression from feral dogs (C. familiaris) in 10 out of 92 wolves (9.8 %). Our results also suggest admixture between wolves and local populations of golden jackals (C. aureus), but less extensive as compared with the admixture with dogs. We detected local population structure that may be explained by fragmentation patterns during the 1970s decline and differences in local ecological characteristics, with more extensive sampling needed to assess further population substructure. We conclude that high levels of inbreeding and hybridisation with other canid species, which likely result from unregulated hunting, may compromise long-term viability of this population despite its current high genetic diversity. The existence of population subdivision warrants an assessment of whether separate management units are needed for different subpopulations. Our study highlights conservation threats for populations with growing numbers but subject to unregulated hunting. © 2013 The Author(s).

Shurulinkov P.,Bulgarian Academy of Science | Stoyanov G.,Center for Conservation and Support of the Wild Fauna Durrell | Komitov E.,Regional Directorate of Forestry Smolyan | Daskalova G.,Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds | Ralev A.,Balkani Wildlife Society
Acta Zoologica Bulgarica | Year: 2012

The article presents actual data on the status, distribution and habitats of some endangered species of owls and woodpeckers in the western part of Mt. Rhodopes, South Bulgaria. Both groups of birds were detected and attracted using imitations of their calls. A total of 30 territories of Tengmalm's Owl (Aegolius funereus) and 37 territories of Pigmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) were found. Tengmalm's Owl was found in coniferous forests between 1202 and 1800 m a. s. l. Out of 25 localities with described habitat 13 were in mixed Spruce-Beech-Scots Pine forest. Pigmy Owl was found in coniferous and mixed forests between 1412 m and 1930 m, predominantly Spruce (58%) and Spruce-Scots Pine (28%). The population density of Pigmy Owl in optimal habitats in W Rhodopes was calculated to be 2.18 occupied territories/1000 ha. Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) was registered in 16 localities, all of them in predominantly Spruce forests, at altitudes between 1570 and 2100 m. The percent of dry trees in the species habitat wasnot less than 2% of the stand, usually between 4 and 40%, including many 'bark beetle' spots-groups of dry trees, attacked massively by bark beetles. The total population density of Three-toed Woodpec ker in W Rhodopes was calculated to be 1.5 pairs/1000 ha of prime habitat, but it could reach locally up to 10.6 pairs/1000 ha ('Mantaritsa' reserve) and 8.2 pairs/1000 ha (Syutkia massif). White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi) was registered in 19 localities. The total population density of the species was 3.4 pairs/1000 ha. It varied from 2.6 pairs/1000 ha at border parts of Zhulti dyal and Gorna Arda to 4.0 pairs/1000 ha for northern slopes of Batashka Mt. The species was detected mainly in Beech forests, aged 80-140 years, with many dying and dry trees and holes, between 1030 and 1579 m. Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) and Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) were widely distributed in various habitats in all studied parts of W Rhodopes.

Pilot M.,Polish Academy of Sciences | Branicki W.,Institute of Forensic Research | Branicki W.,Jagiellonian University | Jedrzejewski W.,Polish Academy of Sciences | And 5 more authors.
BMC Evolutionary Biology | Year: 2010

Background. While it is generally accepted that patterns of intra-specific genetic differentiation are substantially affected by glacial history, population genetic processes occurring during Pleistocene glaciations are still poorly understood. In this study, we address the question of the genetic consequences of Pleistocene glaciations for European grey wolves. Combining our data with data from published studies, we analysed phylogenetic relationships and geographic distribution of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes for 947 contemporary European wolves. We also compared the contemporary wolf sequences with published sequences of 24 ancient European wolves. Results. We found that haplotypes representing two haplogroups, 1 and 2, overlap geographically, but substantially differ in frequency between populations from south-western and eastern Europe. A comparison between haplotypes from Europe and other continents showed that both haplogroups are spread throughout Eurasia, while only haplogroup 1 occurs in contemporary North American wolves. All ancient wolf samples from western Europe that dated from between 44,000 and 1,200 years B.P. belonged to haplogroup 2, suggesting the long-term predominance of this haplogroup in this region. Moreover, a comparison of current and past frequencies and distributions of the two haplogroups in Europe suggested that haplogroup 2 became outnumbered by haplogroup 1 during the last several thousand years. Conclusions. Parallel haplogroup replacement, with haplogroup 2 being totally replaced by haplogroup 1, has been reported for North American grey wolves. Taking into account the similarity of diets reported for the late Pleistocene wolves from Europe and North America, the correspondence between these haplogroup frequency changes may suggest that they were associated with ecological changes occurring after the Last Glacial Maximum. © 2010 Pilot et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Shurulinkov P.,Bulgarian Academy of Science | Daskalova G.,Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds | Ralev A.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Elenkova V.,Balkani Wildlife Society
Acta Zoologica Bulgarica | Year: 2010

First separate breeding colony of White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucoptera TEMMINCK, 1815) in Bulgaria was discovered in Chairya marsh, in the northeastern parts of the country. Until present separate nesting pairs of this species were found on rare occasions in large colonies of Whiskered Tern (Chlidonis hybrida). We estimated that in the colony nested about 55-60 pairs of White-winged Tern. The colony was found in the deepest part of the marsh where the water vegetation was dense, consisting mainly of Rorripa amphibia. The average dimensions of the nests were as follows: average maximal outer diameter: 17.3 cm (15.0-19.0 cm) (n=13); average minimal outer diameter: 16.2 cm (13.5-18.0 cm) (n=13); average inner diameter: 11.2 cm (10.0-12.0 cm); average height of the nest: 4.65 cm (3.0-6.0 cm), (n=10). The average distance between two nests was 31.6 m (n=15), varying between 3 and 93 m. The average clutch size calculated in the third decade of May was 2.65 eggs/per nest (n=23). The average dimensions of White winged Tern eggs were as follows (n=27): length: 34.99 mm (31.5-37.2 mm); width: 25.53 mm (23.8- 27.2 mm). In six out of 16 found nests on 5 June 2010 we encountered hatchlings. Most of the hatchlings already jumped from the nests and swam very well. We determined that the incubation in the colony had started around 12-16 May 2010. Most probably the extremely high water level in Chairya marsh during spring and summer of 2010 was the key factor for the creation of this new White-winged Tern colon.

Pilot M.,University of Lincoln | Dabrowski M.J.,Polish Academy of Sciences | Dabrowski M.J.,Uppsala University | Hayrapetyan V.,Armenian National Agrarian University | And 6 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Despite continuous historical distribution of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) throughout Eurasia, the species displays considerable morphological differentiation that resulted in delimitation of a number of subspecies. However, these morphological discontinuities are not always consistent with patterns of genetic differentiation. Here we assess genetic distinctiveness of grey wolves from the Caucasus (a region at the border between Europe and West Asia) that have been classified as a distinct subspecies C. l. cubanensis. We analysed their genetic variability based on mtDNA control region, microsatellite loci and genome-wide SNP genotypes (obtained for a subset of the samples), and found similar or higher levels of genetic diversity at all these types of loci as compared with other Eurasian populations. Although we found no evidence for a recent genetic bottleneck, genome-wide linkage disequilibrium patterns suggest a long-term demographic decline in the Caucasian population - a trend consistent with other Eurasian populations. Caucasian wolves share mtDNA haplotypes with both Eastern European and West Asian wolves, suggesting past or ongoing gene flow. Microsatellite data also suggest gene flow between the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. We found evidence for moderate admixture between the Caucasian wolves and domestic dogs, at a level comparable with other Eurasian populations. Taken together, our results show that Caucasian wolves are not genetically isolated from other Eurasian populations, share with them the same demographic trends, and are affected by similar conservation problems. © 2014 Pilot et al.

Nowak C.,Senckenberg Institute | Domokos C.,Milvus Group Bird and Nature Protection Association | Dutsov A.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Frosch C.,Senckenberg Institute
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2014

We tested the hypothesis that brown bears were translocated from the Romanian Carpathians to Bulgaria via air transportation during the communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s. Microsatellite analysis was performed on 199 bear samples from Bulgaria and Romania. Assignment and admixture tests revealed the existence of seven genotypes (=2.8 %) in Bulgaria that were assigned with high probabilities to the Romanian population, supporting the translocation and successful establishment of Carpathian bears in Bulgaria. While we cannot rule out the possibility that active long-distance dispersal contributed to the observed pattern, the spatial distribution and sex ratio of the detected Romanian genotypes strongly favor the translocation hypothesis. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Frosch C.,Senckenberg Institute | Dutsov A.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Zlatanova D.,Balkani Wildlife Society | Zlatanova D.,Sofia University | And 5 more authors.
Mammalian Biology | Year: 2014

The Balkans are one of the last large refugia for brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations in Europe, and Bulgaria, in particular, contains relatively large areas of suitable brown bear habitat and a potential population of more than 600 individuals. Despite this, the majority of brown bear research remains focused on bear populations in Central and Western Europe. We provide the first assessment of genetic population structure of brown bears in Bulgaria by analysing tissue samples (n=16) as well as samples collected with noninvasive genetic methods, including hair and faecal samples (n=189 and n=163, respectively). Sequence analysis of a 248 base pair fragment of the mitochondrial control region showed that two highly divergent mitochondrial European brown bear lineages form a contact zone in central Bulgaria. Furthermore, the analysis of 13 polymorphic microsatellite markers identified 136 individuals and found substantial genetic variability (He=0.74; NA=8.9). The combination of both genetic markers revealed the presence of weak genetic substructure in the study area with considerable degrees of genetic admixture and the likely presence of migration corridors between the two subpopulation in the Rhodope Mountains and Stara Planina as evidenced from the genetic detection of two male long-distance dispersers. A detailed assessment from densely collected samples in the Rhodope Mountains resulted in a population size estimate of 315 (95% CI=206-334) individuals, indicating that not all available habitat is presently occupied by bears in this region. Efficient management plans should focus on preserving connectivity of suitable habitats in order to maintain gene flow between the two Bulgarian brown bear subpopulations. © 2014 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.

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