Conference PaperPDF Available

Conservation of Emys orbicularis in Liguria (NW ITALY)

Authors:
  • Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell'Ambiente Ligure
  • CESBIN Srl
  • Acquario di Genova

Abstract and Figures

The historical presence of Emys orbicularis in Liguria (NW Italy) is confirmed by museum specimens only in the Province of Savona, where the alteration of freshwater habitats have negatively impacted the species, that was considered locally extinct by the end of the last century. However, recent findings proved the existence of few remnant breeding populations and since 2000 public authorities and private entities are cooperating in preserving the breeding sites and in rearing Emys in controlled conditions. After 14 years from the starting of the project all the natural sites are now included in Natura 2000 sites and since 2008, 153 terrapins, bred in the " Centro Emys " and in the " Acquario di Genova " , have been restocked in the wild. A LIFE+ Nature project was co-financed in the 2013 by the EU Community (LIFE EMYS-LIFE12 NAT/IT/000395) with the objective of conservation of the European pond turtle in two Ligurian wetlands habitats, through the eradication of alien species, the habitat restoration and the restocking.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
67
CONSERVATION OF EMYS ORBICULARIS IN LIGURIA (NW ITALY)
Ottonello D. 1,6, Salvidio S.2, Oneto F. 1, Jesu R.3, Gili C.3, Gnone G.3, Lamagni L.4, Ortale
S. 4, Genta P. 5
1CESBIN srl., spin-off dell'Università di Genova, Genova, Italy
2DISTAV, Università di Genova, Genova, Italy
3Acquario di Genova, Genova, Italy
4Pro Natura, Genova, Italy
5Provincia di Savona, Savona, Italy
6DAIS, Università Cà Foscari, Venezia, Italy
1dario.ottonello@studionatura.net
ABSTRACT
The historical presence of Emys orbicularis in Liguria (NW Italy) is confirmed by
museum specimens only in the Province of Savona, where the alteration of
freshwater habitats have negatively impacted the species, that was considered
locally extinct by the end of the last century. However, recent findings proved the
existence of few remnant breeding populations and since 2000 public authorities
and private entities are cooperating in preserving the breeding sites and in rearing
Emys in controlled conditions. After 14 years from the starting of the project all the
natural sites are now included in Natura 2000 sites and since 2008, 153 terrapins,
bred in the “Centro Emys” and in the “Acquario di Genova”, have been restocked in
the wild. A LIFE+ Nature project was co-financed in the 2013 by the EU Community
(LIFE EMYS - LIFE12 NAT/IT/000395) with the objective of conservation of the
European pond turtle in two Ligurian wetlands habitats, through the eradication of
alien species, the habitat restoration and the restocking.
Keywords: Emys orbicularis, Liguria, conservation, breeding
INTRODUCTION
In Liguria (NW Italy), Emys orbicularis was commonly found along the west coast until
1970, with historical presence confirmed by museum specimens only in the Province of
Savona (Salvidio et al., 2006). However, in the last twenty years, this species was
considered extinct in the wild. The causes of its disappearance were mainly due to habitat
loss and modification (Andreotti, 1994). Furthermore, the presence of invasive species,
fishing activities, water table lowering and the water pollution contributed to the
decrease of this species. Recently, few small and isolated populations were discovered in
the Albenga plain (Jesu et al., 2000, 2004). These native populations are recognized
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
68
deserving priority conservation actions at the Regional level. Therefore since 2000, a
restoration and breeding program was implemented by different public Authorities,
private entities, NGOs and volunteers (Province of Savona, University of Genova, Corpo
Forsetale dello Stato, Genoa Aquarium, WWF Liguria, Pro Natura Genova). A LIFE+ Nature
project was co-financed in the 2013 by the EU Community (LIFE EMYS - LIFE12
NAT/IT/000395). This project is developed with many others actions such as the removal
and management of allochthonous freshwater chelonians, veterinary protocols,
comunications but in this paper we focus mainly on facilities and methods of Emys
orbicularis rearing.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The concrete actions of the project consisted of four integrated parts:
Monitoring. All wild populations were monitored annually since the 2002 by capture-
recapture and radiotracking.
Habitat management. During the project several freshwater habitats inside Natura 2000
sites in the Province of Savona were created or restorated (Ottonello et al., 2010). Thanks
to the LIFE EMYS a sistemic removal of allochthonous freshwater chelonians was started
in the 2014.
Rearing. A small ex-situ breeding center ( Figure 1 – 2 - 3) was built in the 2000 in the
plublic area “Vivaio Isolabella”, Albenga (SV). The outdoor facilities is about 150 m2and is
divided in four pens: an area for adults (15 females and 7 males) that communicate only
during the nesting period with a nesting area. Two areas of acclimatation for different age
group terrapins. Thanks to the LIFE EMYS the “Centro Emys” will be implemented with
four new units, aimed at keeping the juveniles. The new tank, as the existent, will be
equipped with phytodepuration system, basking sites and hibernation area ( Figure 1 – 2 –
3). The LIFE EMYS provide also the creation of new an indoor facility in the Genoa
Aquarium composed by a total of 14 tanks that is able to host a maximun of 200 young
terrapins at one time, coming from ex-situ breeding center. The animals will kept in a
controlled environment for about one year before they are transeffer back to the
breeding center for environmental acclimatation.
Reinforcement. The last E. orbicularis populations in the Albenga plain have been refonced
since 2008 with captive bred individuals (several of them radiotracked during their first
season of activity). All specimens released in the wild are firstly checked according the
veterinary protocols and the Disease Risk Analysis (DRA). Animals are released when they
are between 4 and 6 years old.
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
69
Figure 1. Present outdoor facilities composed by 4 different sectors with an aquatic and a
terrestrial areas each.
Figure 2. Adults sector (Tank Area = 50 m sq - Maximum Depth = 0.9 m).
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
70
Figure 3. Nesting sector.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Rearing and reinforcement. Despite the initials difficulties, mainly due to problems with
the power grid which led to problems with the artificial incubation of eggs, the ex-situ
breeding center is now well equipped with a number of hacthlings comprised between 50
and 70 per year. Since the 2000 more than 400 animals hatched in the facility and 156
specimens were released in Natura 2000 protected areas (Figure 4 - 5).
Figure 4.
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
71
Figure 5.
Figure 6. Blu column (total number of specimens released between 2008 and 2013) and
orange column (total number of specimens recaptured in 2014).
The annual survival of released E. orbicularis is site-dependent. Based on first recapture
data, survival is estimated to be almost 70% in relatively isolated ponds and 30% in stream
habitats (Figure 6). These first monitoring results suggest that the populations are
demographically increasing but still highly endangered. Concerning reproduction in the
wild of the released specimens, we have photo of individuals mating but no data on egg-
laying or newborns.
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
72
Figure 6. Nesting area management.
Habitat management. In addition to extraordinary actions cited by Ottonello et al. (2010),
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
73
regularly actions are conducted to manage both the terrestrial and aquatic habitats. In
fact the main problem is the natural evolution of vegetation leading to the closure of
nesting areas and to the silting up of freshwater habitats. For these reason clearing of
nesting area (April) and freshwater habitat (September) is conducted periodically (Figure 7
- 8).
Figure 7. Aquatic habitat management, creation of open areas with removal of Typha
angustifolia and Sparganium erectum.
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
74
A total of 176 allochthonous specimens (52 in the Emys orbicularis Natura 2000 sites) are
removed in the 2014 in the area of LIFE EMYS interest (Ta. 1). Specimens captured belong
to three different species: Graptemys pseudogeographica,Pseudemys concinna and
Trachemys scripta.T. s. elegans represents the 80% of allochthonous animals found. A first
examination of data on the size of the specimens and on the consistency of juveniles
makes us think that T. s. elegans is able to reproduce in our region.
Table 1. Number of allochthonous terrapins captured in 2014 in Liguria (LIFE - EMYS)
The attitude of local people towards the project was generally positive, and the integrated
experience of Liguria was successfully exported in Sicily. Thanks to the extensive process
of dissemination and awareness raising at the local level (more than 200 elementary and
middle school students visit the center each year), the European pond turtle is perceived
as flagship species characteristic of the last freshwater habitats of the Albenga plain.
However to guarantee an efficient conservation action this project should be supported
for many years together a proper landscape planning.
REFERENCES
Andeotti A. (1994). Testuggine palustre Emys orbicularis. (pag. 72-73). In: Doria G. Salvidio
S. (eds.). Atlante degli anfibi e rettili della Liguria. Cataloghi dei beni naturali n° 2,
Regione Liguria, NuovaLitoeffe, Castelvetro Piacentino, 151 pp. [in Italian]
Jesu R., Mamone A., Lamagni L. & Ortale S. (2000). Nuovi dati sulla presenza del pelodite
punteggiato (Pelodytes punctatus) e della testuggine palustre europea (Emys
orbicularis) in Liguria. In: Giacoma C. – Atti I Congresso Nazionale Societas
Herpetologica Italica, Mus. Reg. Sc. Nat. Torino: 611-618. [in Italian]
Jesu R., Piombo R., Salvidio S., Lamagni L., Ortale S. & Genta P. (2004). Un nuovo taxon di
Testuggine palustre endemico della Liguria occidentale: Emys orbicularis ingauna n.
ssp. (Reptilia, Emydidae). In: Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale “G. Doria”,
Genova, 96: 133-192.
Tax o n Number %
Graptemys pseudogeographica 2 1,1
Pseu d emys concinna 1 0,6
Trachemys scripta elegans 14 1 8 0 ,1
Trachemys scripta scripta 25 1 4 ,2
Trachemys scripta troostii 4 2,3
Trachemys scripta 3 1,7
TOTAL 176 100
Herpetological Facts Journal. 2014, 1. ISSN 2256-0327. Supplement 1: Proceedings of the 2nd international
Scientific Conference – Workshop “Research and conservation of European herpetofauna and its environment:
Bombina bombina, Emys orbicularis, and Coronella austriaca”
75
Ottonello D., Jesu, R., Genta P., Ortale S., Lamagni L., Salvidio S. (2010). Il “progetto Emys”:
dieci anni di conservazione di Emys orbicularis in Liguria. In: Atti VIII Congresso della
Societas Herpetologica Italica. (Chieti, 2010), Ianeri Edizioni, Pescara: 473-476. [in
Italian]
Salvidio S., Ottonello D., Jesu R., Ortale S., Genta P. (2006). Piano d’azione per la
testuggine palustre ingauna (Emys orbicularis ingauna). Pp. 99. Allegato alla
Deliberazione della Giunta Provinciale n. 157- del 01/08/2006. [in Italian]
... (European Commission 2013, Kopecký et al. 2013). For this reason it is now also present in some countries of the Europe (Spain, Austria, Italy) (Egaña-Callejo 2007, Kleewein & Wöss 2009, Izquierdo et al. 2010, Kleewein & Wöss 2011, Kleewein 2014b, Ottonello et al. 2014). Pelodiscus sinensis (Wiegmann, 1834) in contrast to the previous mentioned species is native to Asia. ...
Article
Full-text available
The release of reptiles imported for pet trade, by their owners, over decades has caused allochthonous species to become widespread in natural habitats all over the World. The turtles are among the most popular reptiles in the pet trade. There are reports of the presence of one allochthonous species of turtle (Trachemys scripta) on the Balkan Peninsula for the past 20-30 years. The presence of Pelodiscus sinensis, in Croatia was officially published in 2014 and the presence of Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii has been known since 2006 but not scientifically published. We gathered data on distribution and presence of Trachemys scripta elegans, Trachemys scripta scripta, G. p. kohnii, G. p pseudogeographica. and P. sinensis and produced the distribution map which shows heterogeneity in terms of rural/urban territories. The single largest allochtonous population (mostly comprised of T. scripta) in Croatia is found in Maksimir park (city of Zagreb) numbering over 300 individuals.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The European pond terrapin Emys orbicularis, considered extirpated from Liguria up to 1990s, is still present in small and isolated areas in the Albenga Plain. Since 2000, a species recovery project has been coordinated by the Administration of the Province of Savona, in collaboration with institutional and non-governmental organisations. A small breeding centre has been constructed and local terrapins are bred ex situ to obtain juveniles that are released, after a veterinary screening, in restored and protected sites. Since 2008, 36 individuals have been released in three sites with a recapture rate that ranges up to 80%. Up to now, this conservation project has been accepted by local administrations and has obtained appreciation by local communities, facilitating fund raising. All'inizio degli anni '90 del secolo scorso Emys orbicularis era considerata estinta in Li-guria (Andreotti, 1994). in seguito al ritrovamento di alcuni esemplari isolati, alle ricerche di campo e alle testimonianze raccolte presso gli abitanti della piana di Albenga, delle Valli Varatella, maremola e merula è stato possibile verificare la presenza di alcuni nuclei isolati della specie (Jesu et al., 2000). Ricerche recenti hanno infatti mostrato che fino a poche decine di anni fa la specie era presente lungo la costa ligure da Andora fino ad Borgio Ve-rezzi (Salvidio et al., 2005). Attualmente la specie è presente solo nella piana di Albenga, dove i nuclei rimasti sono composti da pochi individui con limitate capacità di riprodursi. Le principali cause di rarefazione della specie sono riconducibili alla distruzione ed altera-zione delle zone umide e dei circostanti siti di deposizione: gran parte delle aree golenali del bacino del Centa e dei torrenti limitrofi sono state completamente bonificate e sono attualmente intensamente utilizzate a scopo agricolo. inoltre, i tratti terminali di quasi tutti Il "progetto Emys": dieci anni di conservazione di Emys orbicularis in Liguria
Testuggine palustre Emys orbicularis. (pag. 72-73)
  • A Andeotti
Andeotti A. (1994). Testuggine palustre Emys orbicularis. (pag. 72-73). In: Doria G. Salvidio S. (eds.). Atlante degli anfibi e rettili della Liguria. Cataloghi dei beni naturali n°2, Regione Liguria, NuovaLitoeffe, Castelvetro Piacentino, 151 pp. [in Italian]
Nuovi dati sulla presenza del pelodite punteggiato (Pelodytes punctatus) e della testuggine palustre europea (Emys orbicularis) in Liguria
  • R Jesu
  • A Mamone
  • L Lamagni
  • S Ortale
Jesu R., Mamone A., Lamagni L. & Ortale S. (2000). Nuovi dati sulla presenza del pelodite punteggiato (Pelodytes punctatus) e della testuggine palustre europea (Emys orbicularis) in Liguria. In: Giacoma C. -Atti I Congresso Nazionale Societas Herpetologica Italica, Mus. Reg. Sc. Nat. Torino: 611-618. [in Italian]
Piano d'azione per la testuggine palustre ingauna (Emys orbicularis ingauna). Pp. 99. Allegato alla Deliberazione della Giunta Provinciale n
  • S Salvidio
  • D Ottonello
  • R Jesu
  • S Ortale
  • P Genta
Salvidio S., Ottonello D., Jesu R., Ortale S., Genta P. (2006). Piano d'azione per la testuggine palustre ingauna (Emys orbicularis ingauna). Pp. 99. Allegato alla Deliberazione della Giunta Provinciale n. 157-del 01/08/2006. [in Italian]