Chuchangas chicharreras unique in the world and in danger of extinction

There are few municipalities in the world where there are two critically endangered species, and one of them is Santa Cruz de Tenerife. In the Anaga landscapes, but also in the Santos ravine, there are two tiny invertebrates unique in the world: the dwarf beret slug and the hemicycla modesta. These two chuchangas (Canarianism to refer to land snails) were discovered about 150 years ago one and the other 200, they are registered in the Red Book of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the critically endangered category. Knowing the state in which these populations are found, protecting them, and making them known to the public, is the objective of the project that the University of La Laguna (ULL), together with the Loro Parque Foundation, have presented to the Santa Cruz City Council with the aim of gathering their support to launch an awareness campaign.

Patricia Delponti, professor and researcher at the ULL and director of this project, explained to DIARIO DE AVISOS that, “in the Canary Islands there are a series of species that have been described for years and are seriously threatened. We have been looking for a way to recover them for a long time, but for that we have to put them in value, because they are not known, as other species such as large mammals are known, which are on everyone’s mind when we talk about the danger of extinction. That is why we came up with a research and transfer project, so that we can carry out an awareness campaign to protect the local natural heritage ”.

“The idea is to raise with the City Council of Santa Cruz -continues Delponti- the need to make known the existence of these species, which need to be reevaluated through a census to verify the state in which they are, and then put them in value before the citizens, and that is where we need the support of the City Council, to carry out an awareness campaign ”.

Support, which, according to the mayor of Animal Welfare, Carlos Tarife, will be absolute. “They want us to do a job of visibility, to collaborate in raising awareness and protecting these species so that they do not end up disappearing, a job in which, of course, they will have our full support.”

As detailed by the professor of the Department of Social Sciences and Communication of the ULL, in addition to being a member of the Research Laboratory on media and its effects, “the proposal is for research and knowledge transfer, and the way to carry it out is through through an agreement with the ULL Foundation, which is supported by two legs; the technique, which is the preparation of the census and reevaluation of the situation of the species, and the second, which is the enhancement with an awareness plan, so that once identified we can take photographs and videos to develop the content of the communication campaign for citizens ”. Delponti points out that it is even valued to go to the EU to obtain financing through the so-called Life projects.

SMALLER THAN A ONE EURO COIN

The size of these two small slugs does not exceed that of a one euro coin, and they belong to the species, that of invertebrates, with the highest risk of extinction in Europe, where 70% of these organisms are critically endangered. These chicharreros snails have lived in Santa Cruz for millions of years, and could disappear in a few years if urgent measures are not taken.

The first of these invertebrates, the dwarf beret slug, belonging to the genus of PlutoniaAs the director of the Loro Parque Foundation and co-director of the project together with Patricia Delponti, Javier Almunia explains, “the first description of it dates back 150 years, and it is located in the Anaga area. It was a Swiss physicist (Albert Mousson) who discovered and cataloged it, and since then it has remained localized, but its presence has been fragmented mainly due to the occupation of the territory ”.
Almunia details that, “the few that remain were evaluated ten years ago precisely for the IUCN Red Book, which classified it as critically threatened by the scarce distribution as a result of the recession it has had. Every ten years it must be reevaluated. The Government of the Canary Islands also has it included in its list of threatened species, but in the category of vulnerable ”.

As for the second species, the modest hemicycla, Almunia explains that it is located exclusively in the Santos ravine. “It was identified 200 years ago, two centuries that will be next year, and initially it was considered to be very abundant, because it was seen frequently, but, after 1850, they stopped being seen, and it had been almost 150 years without being found until it appeared again in 2005, when they located a specimen ”. “It is possible – he continues – that there are a couple of small but very localized populations, which could probably be the last. This is not even listed by the Canarian Government ”.
For Almunia, the objective in both species is to “reevaluate if these populations are unique or if there are more, and if so, establish protection measures.”

That is why it is so important, explains the director of the Loro Parque Foundation, to obtain the collaboration of the administrations in the project that aims to reevaluate and protect these two species. “The first thing to do is to value them, for the public to know that it has a unique global biodiversity heritage, and that it is essential to protect it, because from the point of view of biodiversity, a snail has the same value as a lynx. The Canary Islands are extremely rich in biodiversity, and the fact that there are two critically endangered species in a municipality is something that occurs in very few parts of the world ”.

Therefore, the plan that the ULL and the Loro Parque Foundation have set is to do the reevaluation, so that, “at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, and once both species have been evaluated by the IUCN experts “We plan to hold a workshop with specialists in conservation and planning to be held in Tenerife, a meeting in which local, island and regional administrations coordinate to make protection plans for these species, which is the ultimate goal.”

TENERIFE HAS SEVEN CRITICALLY THREATENED SPECIES

Javier Almunia explains that Tenerife has up to 7 species of invertebrates in danger of extinction in the category of critically endangered. “Although we started the project with the two from Santa Cruz, the idea is to cover all species in the same state. Of those seven, two are considered to be likely extinct, as they have not been seen in over 150 years. That is why it is necessary to do a good search to verify that they have really disappeared ”. The idea of ​​the project is to contact all the municipalities as well as the technicians of the different administrations so that they can collaborate in the protection of the species.

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