June 25, 2008

100s of Mongolian Gazelles died

© Seen in the latest edition of e-Browser
from the Large Herbivore Foundation (LHF)

In May 2008 hundreds of Mongolian Gazelles were caught and died in the 2-meter high barbed wire barriers on the border of Russia and Eastern Mongolia. At least 30,000 Mongolian Gazelles have concentrated recently on the border of Mongolia and Russia in their search for food and water. Because of continuing droughts in Eastern Mongolia, the animals are migrating to the north, hoping to find food and water in Russia/ Dauria. From their long journey over hundreds of kilometres, the animals are already much weakened, when running in to the border barriers. (Barriers that in fact are mainly meant to prevent cross border cattle theft!). With help of the Russian army and border patrol, Russian rangers, supported by WWF Russia, are making temporary openings/ corridors in the border fencing over a length of 40 km, to create a safe passage for the gazelles. Also drinking water and supplementary food is provided, together with pens for wounded animals. LHF has given emergency financial support to Dauria Zapovednik and is working with WWF Russia, UNESCO MAB Russia and WWF Mongolia to tackle the crisis.

The Mongolian Gazelle is a migrating species, living in herds of tens of thousands of animals, moving over great distances in the Asian steppes, originally in a vast area, covering all of Mongolia, and adjacent areas in Russia and China. The mass migrations of the Mongolian Gazelle are a unique phenomena, comparable only to the migrations still occurring in Africa. Because of increasing border barriers (Mongolia/ Russia/ China) and increase in - fenced out - infrastructure like railroads (e.g. Trans Siberia line Russia/ Mongolia to Beijing), the essential seasonal migration of Mongolian Gazelle becomes harder and almost impossible. The extreme droughts in Eastern Mongolia, this early in the season, may be due to predicted climate change that will have major consequences for the steppe ecosystem and Mongolian wildlife.

LHF has been collaborating with other parties over the last years to find structural solutions and sustainable protection for the endangered Mongolian Gazelle. Besides protected areas (like Daurskii Zapovednik, RU; Eastern Steppe reserves, MN), unrestricted seasonal- and climate migration should be guaranteed, e.g. in creating controlled corridors for gazelles to cross the borders. The Mongolian Gazelle has declined sharply during the last decades. From some 1.5 million in mid 20th century (ranging Mongolia, Russia and NE China), only 500,000 remain nowadays, limited to E Mongolia and adjacent Russia. In Russia the species became extinct in the seventies, by over hunting, poaching and competition with domestic cattle. Since 1993, when a group of Mongolian Gazelles migrated (!) to Dauria, the species is back in Russia. Thanks to strict protection measures the population has now increased to over 1,000 animals.

Fred Baerselman & Joep van de Vlasakker


Mongolian Gazelle. Photo © R. Reading

Note (A. Braunlich): The Mongolian Gazelle Procapra gutturosa is currently not considered to be globally threatened (Least Concern). IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/. Downloaded on 25 June 2008.

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