Monitoring the situation in the Betpakdala and Ural saiga populations in Kazakhstan during the calving period in 2016-17

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Since 2008 specialists from the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) have been monitoring saigas in their calving areas as part of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, with a special emphasis put on the Betpakdala and Ural populations in 2016 and 2017.

Monitoring the situation in the Betpakdala and Ural saiga populations in Kazakhstan during the calving period in 2016-17

Albert Salemgareev & Steffen Zuther, ACBK, albert.salemgareev@acbk.kzsteffen.zuther@acbk.kz

 

In 2016 the saigas of the Ural population were calving at the border between Janybek and Kaztalov Districts of West Kazakhstan province, where we recorded two large aggregations between 7th and 17th May. During 90km of transect surveys, we ear-tagged 320 saiga calves. Saigas from the Betpakdala population were calving in the Irgiz Turgay State Nature Reserve between 5th and 12th May. Around 200 saiga calves were eartagged on a transect 65 km long; the average weight of a calf (irrespective of sex) was 3.16 kg.   

In 2017 we also monitored the calving areas of the Ural population, on 28 transects totalling 142 km. During the survey we examined 950 new-born calves and eartagged 663. Calving took place in two areas 35 km apart.  

Although in 2017 the spring arrived late in the northern regions of Kazakhstan, Betpakdala's saigas had finished calving by 12th May. This year, the saigas did not form large calving aggregations but gathered into different-sized groups scattered across the calving area, the largest of which was recorded in the Irgiz Turgay Reserve and consisted of 4,000 individuals. 

To summarise, calving was successful in both the Ural and Betpakdala populations in 2016 and 2017.  

The research team included experts from the following organisations: ACBK; Okhotzooprom; Scientific and Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, Ministry of Education and Science; National Reference Centre for Veterinary Medicine, Ministry of Agriculture; Institute of Zoology, Ministry of Education and Science; Royal Veterinary College (UK); Frankfurt Zoological Society (Germany).      

 

An eartagged newly born saiga. A calving aggregation of female saigas. Photo by Albert Salemgareev