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Safari Club International Foundation » Conservation » Asia Program: Species & Habitat Enhancement

Asia Program: Species & Habitat Enhancement

Snow Leopard

Objective

Snow leopards are among the most elusive and least studied felids on the earth.The biology within the species' range, in general, is poorly known, especially in the Sayan Mountains of Siberia.

Support

SCI Foundationcontinues the preliminary research on snow leopard ecology investigation with scouting cameras used in the Western Sayan Mountain Ridge within the territories of the "Idzhir" hunting lease and the State Nature Biosphere Reserve, "Sayano-Shushensky."

Methods & Research

One of the unique features of this project is the clever use of trail cameras.The same trail cameras that are popular with deer hunters in the United States are being used as a research tool to monitor urine marking locations at mountain passes where snow leopards may cross from one valley to another.Urine markings on vertical surfaces are typical of snow leopards to communicate with other animals, especially during the mating season. The trail cameras have been spread over a 300-square-kilometer area and obtained more than 1,200 photos of snow leopards. According to our preliminary investigations since 1999, this territory inhabits up to 20 snow leopard individuals. The density reaches 1 individual per 100 square kilometerdespite the fact that this area is the most northern part of the species' entire range. The frequent use and high population of snow leopards can be explained by the presence of prey species, which are locally managed by humans for hunting in specified management areas. This is just another positive role that hunting can play at the landscape scale for non-game predator species.


Saiga Antelope

Saiga thumbnail

Objective

The saiga antelope has rapidly declined throughout its entire range over the past 15 years, and until recently, biologists have not understood why. Once inhabiting an enormous continuous range from the grassland steppes of southeast Europe to the semi-desert regions of Central Asia, the saiga population is now fragmented into small subpopulations.

Support

Partnering with the Russian Academy of Sciences, the SCI Foundation supported this research on saiga and their habitats to clarify what leading factors contributed to the drastic range-wide decline.

Methods & Research

For many years, poachers and the commercial sale of saiga horn were blamed for the regional decline of the species. Excessive and unregulated poaching was recognized as the probable cause for the decline because saiga horns are highly valued and demanded in traditional Chinese medicine. This has given hunters a poor image, even though poaching certainly should not be confused with legal hunting. Other factors considered were disturbance of key habitats and migration routes, but there has not been much attention on the vegetative composition across the saiga's range. Results from habitat studies now show that poaching was only a small part of an ecosystem problem. Changes in saiga habitat are now thought to be the leading cause in the decline. Nutritionally poor plant species such as needle grass and feather grass have replaced the plant species saiga rely on for food. These species now comprise 70-90% of the above ground plant biomass in saiga habitat. The sudden shift in plant species, large scale fires in the grassland steppe and dry summers have deprived saiga of adequate forage. In addition to this stress, high poaching levels dramatically reduced the number of mature males in the population. These factors compounded, among others, and the saiga population crashed.


Argali Sheep

argaliTN

Objective

Some regions of Mongolia (Altai Mountains) have had restrictions on importation into the United States levied in the past due to lack of scientific knowledge of how argali populations behave in the presence of hunting. In the recent past, Altai Argali hunting was curtailed and once again has been threatened. If good population demographic data are not gathered as proposed in this project, the future of Mongolian argali hunting by international hunters may once again be in jeopardy.

Support

The SCI Foundation's Conservation Committee recently granted $25,000 to researchers from the August L. Hormay Wildlands Institute, based in Montana, to conduct population surveys of argali in Mongolia.

Methods & Research

The initial phase of this multi-year endeavor will be to assist the Mongolian government in developing a contemporary population monitoring program which can be repeated in future years. Results of this study will be used to develop permit recommendations for sustainable harvest of argali in Mongolia. The intent is to provide background knowledge which can be used by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to determine an appropriate import permit quota level for hunters from the United States. Secondly, argali populations will be monitored twice annually to compile the best available information on sex ratios, reproductive success, herd sizes and herd densities. The long term goal is to create a monitoring system suitable for the Mongolian government to manage internally.


Markhor and Urial

Markhor Thumbnail

Objective

To build upon previous years of population estimates for the straight-horned markhor in the Targhor region of Pakistan.

Support

SCI Foundation funded research projects that documented the population trend for the species and identified critical habitat to be conserved.

Methods & Research

The population estimates across multiple years uses the available information on these wild goats to develop a trend of population growth which takes a step toward de-listing species previously imperiled but recovering as a result of sound management and data collection in the field. Surveys in 2011 identified the existence of over 3,500 markhor in the region which is the largest known to exist. The increase in markhor numbers resulted from engaging the local people in a way that encouraged harvest management. The people in the region imposed restrictions on themselves and set sustainable quotas for international hunters.