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Leech in Ukraine

Fadejew leech

The Fadejew leech (Fadejewobdella quinqueannulata) is a big-bodied (14 cm long) charismatic invertebrate that is endemic to a local area in eastern Ukraine and adjacent territories of Russia. Dr Serge Utevsky from V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine received a grant from the Fund to study the leech. 

For several decades, the species has not been recorded by aquatic ecologists and conservationists because of the lack of taxonomic expertise, its very irregular occurrence and ephemeral habitats.

There is a good reason to think that the Fadejew leech is in a great need of conservation efforts. First, the species is restricted to a very local area in Eastern Europe in contrast to other leech species and aquatic invertebrates with vast Palaearctic ranges. Second, its habitats are ephemeral pools that are simply disappearing because of climate changes. Third, the dried-up habitats are used for agricultural purposes and can be finally destroyed. Being a major predator in ephemeral pools, the Fadejew leech may be an effective umbrella species.

The project is aimed at the conservation of the rare leech species Fadejewobdella quinqueannulata. Its occurrence, biology, abundance, genetic diversity and major threats will be investigated in the field and laboratory. Public awareness of the species and its habitats will be raised via mass media, printed materials etc. The Fadejew leech and its wetland habitats will be treated as natural heritage for the Sloboda Ukraine, a historical region in eastern Ukraine and adjacent territories of Russia. The species will be proposed to include into the next editions of the Red List of Ukraine and the Red List of Russia.The final objective is to assess the conservation status of the five species by applying IUCN criteria using new data obtained.