Published at 10:00 on 04.12.2020 by Balkantel Team
In a year like 2020, good news is becoming increasingly rare. Global issues, such as the reduction of natural diversity, remain in the background.
However, there are people who are struggling to preserve one of Bulgaria’s natural resources. Namely, the two species of tortoises – Greek tortoise and Hermann’s tortoise, which live in our country. These are Ivo Ivanchev and Iva Lalovska.
Ivo is the founder and manager of the Gea Chelonia Foundation. In the endeavor, inseparable from him is Iva Lalovska, with whom she has been a team for 13 years. They are the only two people who take care of the turtles. Thanks to the financial support from the leading engineering company Balkantel Ltd., in the coming months the first stage will be completed – the clearing and demolition of the old buildings and pouring of the foundation. Also, one dwelling will be built.
But how does it all start?
In 2007 the center for breeding and rehabilitation of land turtles was established by Ivo Ivanchev. Together with Iva, to this day they continue to fight for the protection of these animals in our country.
“Every year we receive, treat and release several hundred turtles – sick, wounded, injured by long captivity or found in places uncharacteristic of them. As they recover, some of them create a generation. Some of the newly hatched babies are released as early as next spring, and others – weak and sick babies – are raised until the age of three and subsequently released. In this way, we restore the population of turtles in places where they have already greatly decreased or disappeared.” says Iva.
Despite the difficulties, due to the pandemic of COVID-19, this year in the center hatched 182 turtles of the two species inhabiting the country – Greek tortoise and Hermann’s tortoise. The active season for Iva and Ivo is from April to October. This year, preparations for it coincide with the state of emergency. At that time, the much-needed disinfection materials “disappeared” from the trade network.
“The main limitation during the state of emergency was related to travel – on the one hand the more specific purchases we get from the big cities, and on the other – we had to comply with the places for releasing turtles with the allowed limits, ie. we could not go beyond the borders of the district and release turtles brought from Veliko Tarnovo, for example. It was also a problem to drive turtles for radiography to the big cities where this is done.”
But the pandemic has another good side for them. Because human pressure on turtles decreases and severe cases of road accidents are much less. Since May, the flow of turtles and visitors to them has returned to normal and their season has been busier than the previous year.
In the middle of the summer, the leading engineering company Balkantel Ltd. contacts them. The company develops active charitable activities and, helping the Gea Chelonia Foundation, helps to protect the two species of tortoises that live in Bulgaria and are highly endangered species. Thanks to their support, Iva and Ivo return to an idea that has been waiting to be realized for years. The creation of a separate sector for wintering of the turtles.
“This will be a heated dwelling, divided into three sectors, in which the largest turtles will be able to enter and exit on their own. It will help significantly for the problem of space, as we have now set aside living space for these animals, as well as the problem of carrying those turtles that will grow to 100 kg. by weight. There is also added value – to one side of the building, which will be built with the financial support of Balkantel, a corner with a shed will be built, which will be used for the purposes of our children’s camps. There, the children will be able to eat, rest in the shade, study outdoors, create and play.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that this project has existed as an idea in our heads since the establishment of the Center more than 10 years ago. “
Currently, the project is already underway. In the coming months, until the beginning of winter, the first stage will be completed – the clearing and demolition of the old buildings and pouring of the foundation. In the next two stages, three separate dwellings with an area of at least 12 sq.m. will be built from thermal panels. They will maintain a healthy temperature for turtles – from 28 degrees during the day to 15 at night.
“The future building will solve several important issues for us – it will take the big turtles, which, as numerous, need more space; will solve the problem of transporting the turtles that are over 100 kg from the outdoor sectors indoors, because they will be able to move on their own; will free up living space; will help store all tools, instruments, tools, substrate and materials in one place.”
“The covered corner of the building, which will have numerous functions, will satisfy our needs for a shady place in the open (the yard of the Center is completely sunny), where we can welcome our visitors, guests and especially the participants in the children’s camps. There they will be able to eat, rest, study, create and play.”
The whole project, which is a dream come true for Ivo and Iva, will cost nearly 20,000 levs. They say that their long-term plans for the development of the center have already changed. For now, however, they are still being considered. But they are categorical:
“When we have solid support, as we do in the face of Balkantel, we can look boldly into the future and build change.“