Temelin, South Bohemia, July 22 (CTK) – An animal rescue station near Temelin has gained 60 sousliks from Slovakia that will be, with their young, released into the wild in the Czech Republic, where this rodent is an endangered species, Karolina Sulova, from the Nature Conservation Agency, has told CTK.

Sousliks multiplied extensively in the past and ranked among pests damaging farming crops. However, their population has gradually declined since the 1950s. At present, only some 5000 sousliks live in the Czech Republic in the wild and the souslik is listed among the critically endangered species.

“We do not want the souslik to disappear from our landscape completely. This is why we started strengthening the souslik population in Karlovy Vary (west Bohemia). Some 200 sousliks lived at the local golf course in 2012, but in the past few years, their number has steeply decreased mainly due to adverse weather and at present only five to ten live there,” Sulova said.

Twelve sousliks, bred at the zoo in Hluboka nad Vltavou, south Bohemia, were released in the locality on Thursday, and another eight should follow, she added.

The zoo owns the Rozovy animal rescue station near Temelin.

There are four souslik breeds in the Czech Republic, from which the animals are released into the wild.

The souslik population has declined mainly because of changes in the landscape and farming after WWII when former private farmers’ fields were merged into large ones operated by state cooperatives under the communist regime and chemicals started being used in farming.

A specific threat to sousliks is the free movement of cats that hunt rodents.

The largest Czech colonies of the European souslik are in the Central Bohemian Uplands and at the airports in Mlada Boleslav-Bezdecin, central Bohemia, and Brno-Medlanky, south Moravia.