The Roach's Mouse-tailed Dormouse (Myomimus roachi) is one of the most endangered and rare rodent species in the Western Palearctic (Pucek, 1989). It has a restricted range within the European and western part of Asian Turkey and Southeast Bulgaria. The Roach's Dormouse prefers open landscape, but mainly occurs in hedgerows with groups of trees along the edges of cereal and sunflowers fields and near vineyards, avoiding intensively cultivated areas (Peshev, Dinev, Angelova, 1960; Kurtonur, Ozkan, 1991).
During the last few decades, the vast majority of its potential habitat has been converted to intensive agriculture, and the remaining areas are severely fragmented (IUCN Red List), resulting in evident significant long-term decline in its range (Krystufek et al., 2009). Because of its restricted range and scarcity of recent data on its presence and distribution, the Roach's Dormouse is listed in category Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, as well as on Appendices II and III of the Bern Convention. In the European Red List (IUCN) it even qualifies for Endangered, and further research may show that the species qualifies as Critically Endangered (Krystufek, 2006). As the Roach's Dormouse's range is part of one of Europe's biodiversity hot spots (Krystufek, 2004), the protection of this rare species could positively influence the conservation of other threatened animal and plant species and their habitats.
The overall project objectives are: 1) To gather data on Mouse-tailed Dormouse ranging behavior, activity and habitat use in European Turkey and Southeastern Bulgaria using live-trapping and radio tracking methodsl; 2) To collect DNA material for population genetics analyzes; and 3) To disseminate project results. The project area includes the main species range, that is northern and western parts of European Turkey (Thrace) and Southeast Bulgaria (Sakar mountain, West Strandza mountain and Eastern Rhodopes mountain. The project is implemented by the Regional Natural History Museum - Plovdiv (RNHMP), Bulgaria, in collaboration with the Trakya University in Edirne (Turkey) and the Wildlife research association from Edirne, Turkey (Yaban Hayatı Araştırma Derneği).
In May 2013 the most important activity of this project has been completed: 3 Mouse-tailed Dormouse were tagged with radio-collars. Through the radio-tracking research, combined with other modern techniques (like photo-trapping), completely new data was gathered and some hypotheses were proven. Some of the most important and intriguing findings about the Mouse-tailed Dormouse were: 1) it is not only arboreal or ground-living species - it uses both trees, bushes and ground for moving and feeding; 2) it uses open areas as grasslands, cereal fields and even recently plowed agricultural land for moving and searching for food, which makes it easier food for predators; 3) it uses hollows of old trees with wide trunks to sleep during the day or to rest for short time in the night, which makes the old trees an essential element from their habitat; 4) the same animal uses few different trees with hollows for resting, and one tree can be used for 1 or more consecutive days; 5) the same hollow in a tree is used by different individuals at different time; 6) the height of the used tree hollows identified was 1 to 4 meters above the ground; 7) it is active by night, from 1-2 hours before sunset til 1-2 hours after sunrise; 8) the home ranges of few individuals can overlap, but relationships between them are still unknown.
The radio-tracking method has been successfully implemented on the Mouse-tailed Dormouse for first time ever thanks to this project. The innovative research has revealed new and extremely valuable information about the species activity and ranging behavior, the habitat use and micro-habitat specifics, thus achieving the main project objectives. Owing to this information, existing threats have been identified and next steps for research and conservation activities has been defined, which makes this study a very important first step towards the long-term conservation of the species. This project has also helped to strengthen the existing relationships between the project team members, as well as between organizations from both participating countries, which will continue working on the species preservation.
Project 11053036 location - Turkey, Asia