October 19, 2010
Gazprom completed this year’s final resettlement of rare animals from the Olympic construction sites.
In four years Sochi will host the XXII Winter Olympic Games. A large construction site has already been deployed in the Krasnaya Polyana settlement – a biathlon and ski complex and the Olympic village are being constructed, as well as the second stage of Gazprom’s mountain tourist center. Gazprom sotsinvest is in charge of constructing these venues. The company is allotted with one more equally important and essential task – rare animals resettlement and Red List plants transplantation from the Olympic construction sites.
Struggling for biodiversity
These activities are needed due to a unique character of the regional biosystem – indigenous species of flora and fauna (relics and endemics) live and grow on the hillsides of the Caucasus Mountains. A whole set of compensatory arrangements was elaborated by Gazprom sotsinvest to save the ecological balance at the Olympic construction sites. Meticulous work of a large group of experts stands behind that – it is necessary to select the most appropriate period of resettlement for each animal and plant species, as well as the most comfortable conditions for their further habitation. The experts have recently accomplished final resettlement of rare amphibian species – the Agile frog.
This species (Rana macrocnemis Boulenger) is in the Red List of the Krasnodar Krai. They inhabit only the Caucasus, Asia Minor and Northwest Iran. The Agile frog is a relic, which is a species of great antiquity. Moreover, this kind of amphibians is an endemic, i.e. an animal that can’t live on territories with even slightly different natural conditions.
Resettlement of rare amphibians was carried out by the company’s environmental experts together with the specialists of the Mountain Forestry and Forest Ecology Research Institute. All the procedures had to be finished before the cold season when amphibians go into hibernation.
In the areas adjacent to the current and future construction sites the frogs were gathered and carried to the wooded slopes of the Psekhako Ridge free of human activity. The experts also gathered the spawn of the Agile frog to carry it to water reservoirs.
The company checks the resettled “babies” on a regular basis. It is noted that the results of previous resettlements were very successful: immense amount of fine and healthy tadpoles came to life in all water bodies. Adaptation of adults in their new habitat is also under control of the experts. The population of each species will be specifically monitored – the experts will regularly count the number of species per square kilometer.
According to Svetlana Zhiglova, chief expert of the environmental protection group of Gazprom sotsinvest, a total of 288 adult Red List animals and a large quantity of spawn and hatchlings have been resettled. Among the resettled amphibians are such rare species as the Caucasian Grey Toad (Bufo verrucosissimus/Bufo colchicus), the Caucasian Parsley Frog (Pelodytes caucasicus), the Banded Newt (Triturus vittatus), the Southern Crested Newt (Triturus karelinii), the Lantz’s Newt (Triturus vulgaris lantzi), the Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima or Zamenis longissimus) and many others.
2,387 units of plants have also been resettled including such Red List species as the Georgian Snowdrop (Galanthus woronowii), the Cyclamen Caucasium, the Erythronium Caucasium, the Autumn Crocus (Colchicum speciosum), the Caucasus Peony (Paeonia caucasica), the Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza urvilleana) and others. However, this figure is constantly increasing; the transplantation and resettlement activities are nearly continuous.
The experts need to identify the biological features of each species to find out the most favorable timing for their capture and resettlement and to distinguish the areas that would be most suitable for their further existence. Thus, for instance, to catch a Caucasian Parsley Frog, one has to search for it by sound during the night period using a flashlight as its activity time is rather limited within the 24-hour period: from 11 pm to 2 am.
All the resettled animals are in the Red List of the Russian Federation or the Red List of the Krasnodar Krai – particularly these species are the rehabilitation targets. They are enlisted in the Resettled Plants and Animals Rehabilitation Policy approved by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources.
According to this document, at lest 92 plant species protected by law grow within the Mzymta River watershed where the Olympic venues are constructed. The Olympic premises are also inhabited by 147 animal species put in the Red List of the Krasnodar Krai and 83 species – in the Red List of Russia which also includes birds and insects considered mobile species able to migrate to appropriate areas of habitation. Rehabilitation involves not only resettlement: separate specimens are moved over for captive propagation or, using the scientific language, ex-situ propagation, i.e. outside their natural habitats to further inhabit new territories.
In late October the experts of Gazprom sotsinvest are planning to reach a milestone, the hundredth transplantation of Red List plants – the Ruscus Colchicus will be transplanted in new areas.
Gazprom sotsinvest stresses that all the measures are taken in strict compliance with the existing environmental standards. These measures will minimize the adverse impact caused by the Olympic construction sites on the unique flora and fauna of the region, and maintain its high recreation features as well.