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The 'Save the Russian Desman!' Project

In 2000 the Biodiversity Conservation Centre (BCC) and the National Parks Fund launched a joint campaign to attract resources to a project to protect the Russian desman (Desmana moschata) -a rare Russian relict mammal. The aim of the 'Save the Russian Desman!' Project is to assess the status of the desman population so that a system of measures to protect the species, registered in the Red Lists of threatened species produced by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Russia, can be drawn up and put into practice.

Today the project is practically complete.
The following facts about the desman were found out during the research:

1. The Russian desman's population and habitat are continuing to suffer drastic reduction. At present its population in Russia is around 30,000;
2. The main reason the species is in such an adverse state is illegal fishing with the use of fixed nets and 'electric landing nets';
3. The desman's areas of habitation can best be protected via innovative initiatives, such as creating specialised hunting reserves;
4. A combination of effective measures should be taken without delay to stabilise and improve the condition of the Russian desman throughout its areas of habitation, in particular:
· Banning the unrestricted sale of nets and net-making materials;
· Developing a system of measures to combat electric landing nets;
· Setting up several specialised hunting reserves in the desman's key areas of habitation.

The BCC plans to continue its activities in studying and protecting the Russian desman. Its immediate plans include:
1. Detailed analysis of its survey of the animal;
2. Publishing the project's results in scientific and specialised publications;
3. Organising conferences of experts on the species so that a plan of action to protect the Russian desman can be drawn up;
4. Organising a campaign against the unrestricted sale of nets and net-making materials;
5. Increasing awareness of the problems to be overcome in protecting the desman and small water bodies, in particular by bringing the project's results to a wide audience.
In addition, two more areas of activity look promising: continuing to introduce the desman into areas where it has become successfully established (e.g. Kursk Province), so as to stabilise the reintroduced population, and breeding the desman in captivity.


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