Unprecedented loss of Mongolian mammals
Tuesday 12 December 2006
The first comprehensive Red Lists for Mongolian mammals and fish were today launched at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which evidence catastrophic declines for most of the large mammals and an uncertain future for many fish.
Species that are currently experiencing major declines include the red deer, snow leopard, Asiatic wild ass, Siberian musk deer and argali sheep. The population declines have been extremely rapid, as is evidenced by the 92 percent decline of red deer over 18 years.
Many species, such as the Mongolian saiga, wild camel or Gobi bear, have been restricted to such small populations that they are highly threatened. It is estimated that there are only 460 wild camels in Mongolia and less than 1,000 globally. The Gobi bear is even more threatened with less than 50 individuals remaining. Overall, 79 percent of large herbivores and 12 percent of carnivores in Mongolia are now threatened with extinction. Fishes are less well known, but 11 of the 64 species are believed to be at risk of extinction, including the Siberian sturgeon and the taimen.
The Red List compilation was initiated and funded by the World Bank and implemented by ZSL in collaboration with the National University of Mongolia, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Nature and Environment, and have recently been adopted by the Mongolian government.
Many of the rapid population declines began in the early 1990s, when the social and economic policies of Mongolia changed dramatically after the fall of the Soviet Union. The rapid shift to an open market economy initially left the majority of Mongolians financially disadvantaged. This, in conjunction with reduced law enforcement for both hunting and trade as well as high demand for Mongolian wildlife products, in both China and Russia, has resulted in the rapid loss of Mongolia’s wildlife.
The impact of commercial hunting is now exacerbated by the greater availability of vehicles, guns and other equipment used in the exploitation of wildlife. In the case of mammals, hunting is a particularly serious threat for large ungulates - antelope, deer and gazelle. In addition to hunting, habitat degradation and climate change are increasingly threatening Mongolia’s species.
A variety of different factors, including infrastructure development, over-grazing, mining and logging are all contributing to the large-scale decline of species throughout Mongolia. Mining has significant repercussions for the freshwater ecosystems, both as a result of removing vast volumes of water from the systems (with the additional resultant impact of dramatically increased sediment loading) and as a result of polluting the water.
Dr. Jonathan Baillie, ZSL Research Fellow, commented: “Mongolia was once a refuge for Central Asia’s mammals, but the Mongolian steppe is now being silently cleared of its wildlife. Even the marmot, a large rodent, is estimated to have declined by more than 75 percent over the past 12 years, due to hunting.”
Jargal Jamsramjav, Director of the Steppe Forward Programme (SFP), said: “The production of these Red Lists is a major milestone for conservation in Mongolia and has come at a critical point our country’s history. Information on the status and trends of Mongolian wildlife is essential if we wish to develop economically without losing our valuable biological heritage.”
Dr Baillie added: “In addition to assessing the status of the species, ZSL in collaboration with our local partners have produced a series of action plans for all of the threatened species. These set out current conservation measures and additional actions that must to be taken to prevent further declines. We are confident that current trends can still be reversed, as has been demonstrated by the recent success of the work on the Przewalski’s horse. The Przewalski’s horse, the last of the wild horses, was classified as extinct in the wild in 1996 by IUCN Wold Conservation Union, but following reintroductions in Mongolia now has a thriving wild population of over 250 individuals.”
The Red Lists and Action Plans are being launched at ZSL’s scientific meeting, “Mongolia: The last refuge for Central Asia’s large mammals”, held today (12th December).
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Notes to editors
High resolution photographs available.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide www.zsl.org.
For the complete Red Lists and Action Plans please see Regional Red Lists website
Contact: Joanna Green
Tel: 0207 449 6236
Email: Joanna Green