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Mongolian saiga update

By on July 24, 2008 in Uncategorized, EDGE Fellows, Mammals, Saiga

Buuvei is an EDGE Fellow researching the effect of domestic dogs on Mongolian saiga calf mortality – he sent us this update on his work:

Mongolian saiga (Saiga tatarica mongolica) are one of the last great migratory species of Asia. Their population size and range, however, have declined dramatically during the past half-century. This decline in numbers and distribution has been attributed to illegal hunting, increased number of livestock and natural disaster.

Understanding the effects of predation and other mortality factors on Mongolian saiga calf is critical to the long-term survival of the species. The saiga is endangered across its entire range, and in Mongolia very little is known about adult survival and no information exists about calf survival or causes of mortality.

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Summer habitat of the Mongolian saiga

In May 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society, in collaboration with Mongolian Academy of Sciences, initiated calf survival study in Shargyn Gobi, western Mongolia. The study on calf survival of saiga is the integral part of field research of the EDGE Programme. The team successfully captured 40 new born saiga calves (22 males, 18 females) and fitted with them expandable VHF radio-collars.

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Collaring captured saiga calf

Eleven collared calves were solitary and the rest of the calves were twins. Of the captured twins, 4 were male-male pairs, 4 were female-female pairs, and 7 were mixed sexes. Male calf mass was greater than that of females.

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Collared saiga calf

In order to evaluate an effect of domestic dog on spatial distribution of birth sites, we located the herders’ camp and birth sites using GPS unit. During the survey, we located in total 49 calves (46 live and 3 dead) and 9 herders’ camp.

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Map of calf capture site and herders’ camp locations

Monitoring of the collared calves is still underway and each calf is located for three days each week.

If you would like to support Buuvei’s research towards the conservation of the Mongolian saiga, please click here or become an EDGE Champion.