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Mongolian gazelle finally came back to Dauria grasslands

10 november 2015
More than 6,000 Mongolian gazelles inhabit the Dauria Nature Reserve and its adjacent areas. The census confirmed: after 20 years of hard work on conservation of this unique animal, dzerens finally came back to Dauria

The work on Mongolian gazelle recovery started in 1992. After vigorous extermination of dzerens in Zabaikalsky province, which ended by 1970-s, that year for the first time a newly born dzeren calf was found in the Dauria Nature Reserve. From that moment gazelles again were trying to settle down on the Russian territory. In spite of the protected status of the territory, their numbers were increasing slowly and by the beginning of the century their herd had only 80 head. Since 2000-2001, winter migrations of many thousand dzerens from Mongolia to Russian Dauria. Antelopes, moved by the instinct, were seeking for a place with better weather conditions. However, local people treated them not with hospitality but as a free wild game resource and organized a mass killing. In spring, the remains of dzerens moved back to Mongolia, but some of them stayed on the Russian territory. Since that time starts an epic work on Mongolian gazelle recovery in Russia.

«Two decades hard work was focused on enhancing protection of Mongolian gazelle from poachers, raising awareness among local people, as well as carrying out research studies on animals behavior in newly occupied territories. A lot of people supported our work: from ordinary people to federal agencies, such as the Hunting Management Department and frontier guards, as well as WWF Russia and UNDP/GEF/ the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources “Russian Steppe Conservation” Project. The Mongolian Gazelle Recovery Program has been elaborated and upgraded in the course of gaining new experience and situation development. And now, the latest Mongolian gazelle census confirmed about 6,100 antelopes living on the territory of the Dauria Nature Reserve, the “Dolina Dzerena” Federal Wildlife Refuge (the Valley of the Mongolian gazelle) and in adjacent areas, - comments Vadim Kirilyuk, PhD, head of the Dauria Nature Reserve.

The census also showed that the animals are doing well, continue to explore new areas, and this summer calf crop was larger in numbers than usual. Dzerens are living in several groups, each of them found a certain place for breeding located in calm areas near the lakes and rivers. Antelopes are not afraid of humans anymore; they often appear near cattle-breeding sites and roads. Now people treat them more as local dwellers. Census results impressed and encouraged everyone participating in this many year work.

“For 15 years WWF has been supporting the efforts of protected areas and regional authorities of Zabaikalsky Province to restore Mongolian gazelle in Russia, to monitor and protect the population, and to create protected areas for this rare species conservation. The gazelle is safe in the protected area. In 2004, WWF in cooperation with the District Administration created the “Aginskaya Steppe” Regional Wildlife Refuge (45,000 hectares) to safeguard the gazelle. In 2011, WWF helped the Dauria Nature Reserve administration to establish the “Dolina Dzerena” (the Valley of the Mongolian gazelle) Federal Wildlife Refuge (214,000 hectares) which became a “maternity home” for the gazelles’ females. Later, when the population grew in number and settled down in the Kyrinsky District’s grasslands, the Sokhondinsky Nature Reserve was enlarged with a steppe buffer zone (107,000 hectares) which connected protected areas in Russia and Mongolia”, notes Anna Barma, protected areas program coordinator at WWF Russia Amur branch.

As of Vadim Kirilyuk, the head of the Dauria Nature Reserve, the area inhabited by the gazelle, its number and the structure of groups, the annual life cycle and other characteristics prove that the Mongolian gazelle has settle down in Zabaikalsky Province forever.

Issues of joint monitoring, research, and control over the animals migrating across the state border were discussed in Ulaanbaatar at a meeting of the Russian-Mongolian Committee on Nature Conservation. As the first steps the parties agreed to develop a system for joint monitoring and protection of rare species to be part of activities of transboundary PAs. 

Protected Areas of Zabaikalsky Province in the Amur Ecoregion

More than 6,000 Mongolian gazelles inhabit the Dauria Nature Reserve and its adjacent areas
© Vadim Kirilyuk / Dauria Nature Reserve
Dzerens finally came back to Dauria
© Vadim Kirilyuk / WWF Russia
Dynamics of Protected Areas in Zabaikalsky Province in the Amur Ecoregion
© WWF Russia