A. Preparatory actions:
1. Preliminary study. Such a study is necessary to collect data for population management measures. It will be carried out in Project areas, and in the area (Demene pagasts) which will be designated for the establishment of new Natura 2000 territory for Bombina bombina. The study will consist of the collection of the most recent information on habitat composition in areas (GIS data and site surveys), animal counts, population and their home range mapping. Each species will be studied with most relevant method – Emys orbicularis by netting and radio-tracking, Coronella austriaca by checking under tinplates placed in their habitats, and Bombina bombina – by counting of vocalizing males. It is planned as one-year field study, after what the next project action – creation of Population managed plans will be carried out.
2. The Species Protection Plan for Coronella austriaca. Both Annex II species Emys orbicularis and Bombina bombina covered by the project already have approved Species Conservation Plans where species conservation strategies in Latvia are described. The Species Conservation Plan is lacking for Coronella austriaca, and such plan will be prepared and approved during the project by the Ministry of Environment of Latvia, and the Nature Conservation Agency.
3. Population management plans. These plans will describe in detail the necessary actions and amount of effort (e.g. amount and place where defined amount of shrubs will be cut, locations and specifications for ponds, key points for population enforcements and number of individuals to be released), and will be provided with relevant maps. Measures will be proposed accordingly to the recommendations from Species Protection Plans (present plans for Emys orbicularis and Bombina bombina, and prepared and approved during this project for Coronella austriaca). One management plan for each species will be created. Management plans will be the best possible compromise between the needs of the target species and needs of the other protected species and habitats in the Natura 2000 site. It will be ensured by the responsible national authority – the Nature Conservation Agency.
B. Legal protection improvement
4. Establishing of a new Natura 2000 site. Although preliminary information indicate necessity of establishment of a new Natura 2000 site for Bombina bombina, detailed justification for this action will be acquired by preliminary study of the project; this action will be carried out in cooperation with responsible authorities (Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation Agency), and finished by the end of the project by submitting a proposal for new Natura 2000 site to the Government of Latvia; the process will include reconciliation with local land owners and possible agreements.
C. Actions in-situ
5. Habitat management. This action will be carried out for one Natura 2000 site for each species in accordance to Population management plans. Habitat management measures will be those approved by best conservation practice for each project target species – e.g. creating of open egg-laying sites for Emys orbicularis by vegetation cutting, shrub cutting for Coronella austriaca, pond digging for Bombina bombina. These measures will be made mainly by sub-contractor, but by some extent, project personal will also be involved (e.g. reed cutting, adjustment measures after the monitoring in sites). Habitat management will be mid-project action, carried out mainly in non-vegetation season, in order to reduce stress on populations; the outcome of this activity will be monitored later in the project, and necessary adjustment actions will be made.
D. Actions ex-situ
6. Capacity rising for breeding ex-situ. Both Annex II species are successfully bred in Latvia. During LIFE financed project (LIFE04NAT/LV/ 000199) necessary laboratory facilities in the Latgale Zoo were set-up to ensure production of Bombina bombina. These facilities, however, are limited in capacity, and not equipped for breeding of other project species. During the Project, the new Rare Reptile and Amphibian Breeding Centre will be created there, with six fenced outdoor basins and an existing building renovated for laboratory purposes. These new facilities will ensure a production of 3000 Bombina bombina juveniles a year, and production of 20 Emys orbicularis a year with raising of latter till the age of 5 years what is necessary for their successful establishing in wild.
7. Bombina bombina and Emys orbicularis population enforcements. Population enforcement will be done late in project, after the production of the Management plans and habitat improvement measures carried out. Bombina bombina will be released in key points with suitable habitat and corridors provided, with the aim to enhance connectivity between populations and facilitate their natural enlargement. Individuals bred in old facilities (Latgale Zoo) will be supplemented by individuals bred in the new centre in the later stages of the Project. Emys orbicularis population enforcement will be carried out mainly from individuals raised in the new facilities. Emys orbicularis will be released in single site, where necessary habitat preparation actions will have been carried out in previous actions.
8. Public promotion of reptile and amphibian conservation and promotion of the project. There are numerous public awareness raising activities planned during with project, - project web-site, three seminars for land owners, production of a brochure, TV and radio interviews, press releases, and presentations in conservation authorities’ and scientific meetings.