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Are domestic dogs a threat to Mongolian saiga?

By on September 9, 2008 in Uncategorized, EDGE Updates, EDGE Fellows, Saiga

Buuvei, one of our Mongolian EDGE Fellows spent most of August in the field studying the effect of domestic dogs on saiga antelope. He sent us the following update:

Although domestic dogs are the most abundant carnivore in saiga range, it is poorly known whether saiga suffer from domestic dog predation. We studied potential impacts of domestic dogs on endangered saiga antelope was carried out in Shargyn Gobi, Gobi-Altai province, Mongolia, on 7-27 August 2008.

The Sharga NR straddles on four soum’s (county) territory of Gobi-Altai province and occupied 280,000 ha area. The major goals of the research were to:

(1) implement transect survey to determinethe number of free-roaming dogs within areas utilised by saiga;

(2) interview local herders to understand presence/absence patterns of their ger (nomadic tent house) dogs and knowledge about dog-saiga issues.

Saiga Habitat

During the transect survey, we counted total 222 saigas (females 95, calves 94, males 24 and unknown 9) and herd size was ranging from 1 to 33 animals. We did not count any free-roaming dogs but did locate herders’ gers with dogs along transect routes.

 Female Mongolian Saiga

Goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) is alternate prey species in Shargyn Gobi, which is legally protected and listed in Red Book of Mongolia. This antelope become victim of illegal hunting throughout their range because of delicious meat. During transects we encountered 10 groups of 30 goitered gazelles.

Goitered Gazelles

Along the second objective, we interviewed 21 people (local herders, saiga rangers, and inspectors from soum center) in Shargyn Gobi. During the survey there were total 15 herders within Sharga NR boundary with about 4600 livestock and 19 dogs. Local people said that these numbers will be increased significantly in late fall within and beyond of Sharga NR boundary.

Herders Camp

Interview survey revealed that only one person has witnessed a domestic dog predating on a saiga calf. However, some local people reported that free-roaming dogs occasionally kill adult saiga in spring, when saiga are weak. Only a small number of those interviewed reported to have seen that free-roaming dogs were harassing saiga in Shargyn Gobi.

Child and Domestic Dog

Buuvei’s research into the effect of domestic dogs on this Critically Endangered species will continue, and we look forward to further updates. If you would like to support the conservation research of Buuvei, or any of the other EDGE Fellows, please click here.