While the breeding of prehistoric crabs and Triops in domestic aquariums is becoming increasingly popular, prehistoric creatures are quite rare in the wild. In 2014, the Bavarian State Office for the Environment commissioned a study. As part of this study, all known locations in Bavaria from the past 30 to 40 years were analysed. The results of the study painted a rather bleak picture. The conservation status of prehistoric crayfish in the wild is critical. There are around 630 known habitats in Germany and Austria. This number is considered to be very low. Triops can be found in the Döberitzer Heide in Havelland in the south-west of Berlin. The prehistoric crabs live there in puddles and pools on a former military training area. A civilian armoured tank is currently being used to protect two endangered species of prehistoric crayfish.
The populations of prehistoric crabs are declining
On the former military site, the heavy vehicle travelled several times along the old tracks, where biotopes for wildlife could develop. The armoured vehicles compacted the ground again, allowing water to collect in puddles. These puddles are of crucial importance for the prehistoric crayfish, as reported by the Heinz Sielmann Foundation, which owns the former military training area.
According to the foundation, the armoured channels are home to the two prehistoric crab species Triops cancriformis and Branchipus schaefferi. These were discovered at the end of the 1980s, as Jörg Fürstenow, an expert from the Heinz Sielmann Foundation, reported. Triops cancriformis can reach a size of over ten centimetres, while the other species usually grows to around four to five centimetres. According to Fürstenow, walkers in the Döberitz Heath have a good chance of observing these prehistoric crabs in the puddles along the hiking trails in summer.
The two prehistoric crayfish species, which are typical of military training areas, are also found sporadically in other regions of Germany, including Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, as biologist Alexander Gutsche reported. However, the populations of these prehistoric crayfish are declining.
The former military training area in Havelland is a place steeped in history. After reunification, the extensive site became a nature reserve. According to the Heinz Sielmann Foundation, which acquired the site in 2004, fires, explosions and tracked vehicles have left behind extensive open landscapes that are of great ecological importance. In addition to the prehistoric crayfish, the area is home to many protected animal species, including white-tailed eagles, fire-bellied toads, wild bees and hoopoes.