Dangers of hedgehogs, weasel's hiding places and something about a pipistrelle: seven questions about the Moscow Red Data Book

Dangers of hedgehogs, weasel's hiding places and something about a pipistrelle: seven questions about the Moscow Red Data Book
Nature conservation in a megacity is a tough challenge, and one of the 'guides' to help specialists tackle it is the Moscow Red Data Book. It was supplemented this July, with its printed version to be released in 2020. mos.ru will tell you how to preserve and breed rare species of animals, what animals common for Moscow are currently endangered and what carnivores, herbivores and insect lovers inhabit Moscow parks.

Whose idea was to compile the Red List?

The list of endangered plant and animal species was compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) founded in 1948, with the Rare Species Commission established specially for this purpose.  Experts studied the state of rare plants’ and animals’ populations and developed recommendations for their protection. The IUCN Red List was first published in 1963. The USSR Red Data Book was released in 1978. Regional Red Data Books were compiled in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 1980s.

When was the Moscow Red Data Book compiled?

The Moscow Government released the Red Data Book of Moscow in 2001. Like the IUCN Red List and the Red Data Book of Russia, it is an official document. It contains information about rare and endangered species of plants and animals on the territory of Moscow — their number, range and habitat features, negative factors affecting them, as well as conservation efforts already made and further steps.

The second edition of the Moscow Red Data Book was published in 2010. It included 81 new species of plants and animals. 64 species had been moved to a more 'safe' category due to the increase in population and discovery of previously unknown habitats of these species in Moscow. 12 species were categorised as recovered ones.

How many species of animals and plants are included in the Moscow Red Data Book?

The second edition of the Moscow Red Data Book included 479 species. This July, 117 new species were added to the list of protected flora and fauna. After the new lists are approved, the third edition of the Red Data Book is to be printed in 2020.

Which natural areas of Moscow have the biggest number of red-listed animal species?

Losiny Ostrov National Park, Sokolniki, Moskvoretsky, Izmailovo and Kuzminki-Lyublino natural and historical parks are the most important for preservation and breeding of rare and threatened species on the territory of Moscow.

You may still find endangered animals in Kosinsky, Tsaritsyno, Bitsevsky Forest parks, Tyoply Stan, Troparyovsky and Vorobyovy Gory nature reserves, as well as in the valleys of Setun and Skhodnya rivers.

Which common mammal species are actually considered rare or endangered?

In the evening, you can meet the cutest nocturnal animals of Moscow parks — hedgehogs. They usually settle in various places, but still prefer small glades, forest edges and river floodplains. They nest in bushes, pits, tree roots or abandoned rodent burrows. This common species is widespread on the territory of Russia, but the Moscow Red Data Book lists it as rare species with decreasing population, as in the city hedgehogs often get hit by cars on the roads, fall into open trenches and manholes, ditches and reservoirs with vertically reinforced banks. Besides, stray dogs kill them now and then.

Losiny Ostrov, Izmailovsky, Biryulevsky, Bitsevsky and Kuzminki parks, Skhodnya River valley in Kurkino and some other territories are inhabited by two mammals everybody knows very well — blue and brown hare. You may encounter the first one mainly in the areas with dense undergrowth. Look for the second one on vacant spots overgrown with sagebrush and tall grass, meadows and forest edges. According to the latest research conducted by biologists, hares in Moscow are endangered. White hare is assigned the second category of rare species, with its population decreasing in this area.

Blue hare

Two widespread species of mustelids are also endangered in Russia and Europe — ermine and black ferret. They can be found in Krylatskaya and Brateyevskaya floodplain and in the Skhodnya River’s valley. Besides, biologists have spotted permanent habitats of weasels in the valleys of the Yazvenka and Ramenki rivers, with black ferret habitats located near the Chyornoye (Black) Lake in Kosino. Dynamic urbanisation of suburban areas has surely contributed to the decrease in their population. Natural areas within the city have been isolated from the countryside. The animals lost the so-called ecological corridors, prolonged areas of habitats linking individual ecosystems.

Ermine

Weasels are doing slightly better: the regional Red Data Book lists this species as vulnerable. Weasel is the smallest predator in the world. The average length of its body reaches 19-20 cm, and the weight does not exceed 250 g. This tiny hunter resides in Losiny Ostrov forests, Izmailovsky, Kuzminsky forest, Maryina and Brateyevskaya floodplains, Biryulevsky and Bitsevsky forests, valleys of Chechera, Alyoshinka, Setun, Ramenki and Klyazma rivers. But it is not easy to spot a weasel, as it is both very small and very fast.

What mammals are the most numerous in the Moscow Red Data Book?

Chiropterans (bats) are the champions in the list of protected animals, with six species of them listed. Some of them have unclear status so far: for example, common noctule, brown long-eared bat, Nathusius' pipistrelle and forest bat have been inhabiting Moscow permanently, but species such as Brandt's bat and Daubenton's bat are rare to spot in the city.

Bats prefer to settle in mixed forests with hollow trees, near water bodies and in floodplains. Moscow bats are not 'vampires', they are not even predators, as their diet mostly consists of flying insects, including many species of insect pests.

Daubenton's bat

How to protect red-listed animals?

Any actions leading to death, decrease in population or violation of habitats of animals listed in the Moscow Red Data Book are punished by a warning or a fine. Besides, the main steps that need to be taken in an urban environment to save endangered species should be aimed at preserving Moscow's natural biotopes (natural spaces for animal life). There are 122 nature conservation areas in Moscow, with 100 monuments of nature, 10 nature reserves, 10 natural and historical parks, one national park and one botanical garden.

The most valuable areas for the ecology are the areas with most of the components of a natural forest preserved. For example, 150-year-old spruce forests in the northeast of Moscow, in the deep of Losiny Ostrov, a 200-year old pine forests in Izmailovsky forest, Kuzminsky forest and park, Serebryany Bor and Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo Park. To protect these rare habitats from anthropogenic impact, recreational use of forests in these areas is prohibited. Even forest care activities, such as removal of dead and fallen trees, are not allowed within their limits.

Photo: mos.ru. Yuliya Ivanko

Other areas, on the contrary, require special care. In the eastern part of Izmailovsky forest being a habitat for rare mammals and birds due to the proximity of birch and fruit-bearing fir trees, small-leaved trees shading spruce trees are regularly removed, thereby maintaining the best light regime. In addition, young spruce trees are planted annually in the urban forests.

Another important factor affecting the dynamics of growth or reduction of rare species populations in the city is the condition of water bodies. River valleys crossing forests efficiently serve as protective areas for many red-listed animals, as their steep slopes are rarely visited by people. When landscaping, the natural state of these natural formations is not violated.