Field teams of all LIfe for Mauremys partners in action: summer 2023


The teams of project partners conducted extensive field research on Balkan Terrapins in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County from June 12th to 17th 2023.

The main objective was to locate gravid females for the breeding program at the Zagreb Zoological Garden, aimed to restore the Balkan Terrapin population in Croatia. Additionally, all captured individuals underwent health examinations, and swabs were collected for pathogen analysis.

Colleagues from the Veterinary Faculty used X-rays to examine all the females, ensuring that only gravid ones were transported to Zagreb. There, under the supervision of reptile keeping experts at the Zagreb Zoo, they will lay eggs.

Fish monitoring experts from the Faculty of Agriculture worked on removal of invasive fish species, such as gambusia. From the collected invasive fish, a sample was taken for future analyzes on potential transmissible pathogens that could threaten the turtles.

Biologists from the Hyla Association surveyed all the locations where Balkan Terrapins had been previously recorded, from Ston to Prevlaka. Many habitats, left to natural succession, have already experienced degradation and, in some cases, complete disappearance due to overgrowth of vegetation.

During this field research, we continued to test new fishing net designs to assess the reaction of Balkan Terrapins and their overall effectiveness. Although further research is needed for this species and other freshwater turtles, as well as the target species for these nets, our experts are satisfied with the current progress. Not a single gravid female, in a highly vulnerable stage of carrying eggs, was caught in the modified traps! The modified research nets with dual entrances resulted in a 90% decrease in captures of male and young Balkan Terrapins, while the modified Neretva-style nets showed a 65% decrease compared to standard models.

Collaborating with employees from the Zagreb Zoo, the Faculty of Agriculture, and the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Areas in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, we supported local residents of Majkova, Pljevići, and Grude in safeguarding nesting sites for Balkan Terrapins from wild boar interference. Wild boars pose a threat to the historic stone dry walls of terraced gardens, ponds, staircases, and paths in these areas. It is gratifying to hear that the installation of repellents in Prljevići has successfully prevented wild boars from entering gardens, ensuring the safety of turtle nests laid in June. We hope that, together, we can defend the gardens until the end of September when the hatchlings emerge from their underground nests.

In addition to implementing these agrotechnical pest control measures, we engaged in discussions with landowners hosting Balkan Terrapin nesting sites to explore other beneficial strategies for preserving garden biodiversity. Furthermore, we collected soil samples for analysis.

To ensure that all research activities adhered to nature conservation measures, the field activities were overseen by colleagues from the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Natural Areas in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

It has been confirmed that projects like LIFE for Mauremys are critically necessary to restore ponds and canals and prevent further loss of the target species, as well as many other species dependent on these habitats.

This is the first in a series of planned field research activities aimed at monitoring the Balkan Terrapin population and their habitats in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.


Date of publication: 05 of July 2023

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