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Goitred gazelles: first month in the wild

14 june 2009
Regular monitoring of goitred gazelles, released into the wild in the desert area of the Tigrovaya Balka nature reserve by a joint project of WWF and Tajikistan government, showed that animals easily adapt to the new env

Goitred gazelle is spread all over Central Asia, but its population is scarce on most of its habitat, and in some areas it is almost extinct. So it is not only carefully protected in nature reserves; measures on its conservation and restoration are taken throughout the countries of the region. Bukhara breeding center of goitred gazelle – “Ecocenter Djeiran” – was created in Uzbekistan as early as 1979 to breed goitred gazelles for reintroduction into the wild. In the mid 80s, goitred gazelles were brought for the same purpose to Turkmenistan’s Oguchinsky Island in the Caspian Sea. At present, these animals are used in reintroduction projects.

In Tajikistan, two small gazelle populations have survived only in the desert part of the Tigrovaya Balka nature reserve and in the north-west of the country. In spite of strict protection of the nature reserve, the population is growing very slowly, if growing at all. A modest number of gazelle thinly spread over a vast territory cannot reproduce quickly: the critical population density, which is supposed to guarantee frequent encounters and interaction of animals, is not reached.

The need for additional gazelle population to reintroduce the species in Tajikistan was scientifically proved already in 1985-87, the first work started, but in the early 90s was stopped by political and economic changes and instability.

In 2004-2005, Tajikistan government represented by relevant ministries and committees, continued reintroduction work in Tigrovaya Balka. WWF project on integrated river basin management and nature protection in the Tigrovaja Balka, supported by Norway Ministry of foreign affairs and WWF-Norway, supports this work from summer 2007. In 2007-2008, the first group of gazelle, prepared for the reintroduction in the Ecocenter Djeiran, was brought to specially constructed pens in the nature reserve. For one year, the gazelles stayed in the pens by the reserve office under constant monitoring by the reserve staff, and got used to the new surroundings.

“In May, newborns were expected in the pens. However, the high density in the pens, predominance of male gazelles in the mixed group could negatively affect the animals. To avoid death of a part of baby gazelles, we decided to release part of adult animals in April”, says Olga Pereladova, head of WWF Central Asia Programme.

Future mothers were left in pens to avoid accidental damage during release. The rest were brought closer to the centre of the reserve. Here, in the desert, we often find footprints and excrement of wild gazelles, which proves that it is the most favorable site for release. On April 23, the new group was set free. The animals took the release in stride, without harm or serious stress. In spite of the long stay in the pens, the gazelle confidently strode into the desert.