Mongolian Marmot book published; half of the proceeds will benefit snow leopard research

Marmot book table of contents 2Marmot book table of contents 1Marmot book back coverMarmot book front cover
June 2010: A. Jegal of the Mongolian Biosphere and Ecology Association would like to announce that the book “Mongolian Marmot: Biology, Ecology, Conservation and Use”, written by Ya. Adiya, has been published. Each chapter of the 178-page book contains a summary in English. Half of the profits from this book will support snow leopard research. If you are interested in purchasing the book, please contact the author directly at: adiya_

Snow Leopard Day took place in Altai

1 Jun 2010

(With support from WWF and Altaisky Zapovednik) Ukok Nature Park, FSDA, and the Center for Additional Children’s Education in Kosh-Agach Rayon organized the event. 78 pupils from two high-altitude schools in Kosh-Agach and Ulagan Rayons participated in the event – these areas are important snow leopard habitat. Mongolia’s National Parks Directorship sent representatives. They conducted competitions for best project and best art work related to the snow leopard.

Activists rescue deposed Kyrgyz dictator’s starved leopards

Posted on Earth Times : Fri, 28 May 2010 10:48:55 GMT

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – Activists have rescued 23 starving wild animals, including bears and wolves, from a private menagerie belonging to deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but said Friday they arrived too late to save a couple of snow leopards.

The animals, neglected since Bakiyev’s ouster early last month, were trucked from Bakiyev’s former luxury compound at Jalal-Abad in the south of Kyrgyzstan to a nature-protection site at Karakol, said Leif Miller, head of German nature group NABU.

Among the survivors was one snow leopard, but two were already dead when the NABU staff arrived. There are estimated to be only 350 snow leopards left in the wild in Kyrgyzstan. Birds of prey in the collection included two black kites and an eagle.

“The animals don’t seem to have been fed since he was overthrown,” said Miller from NABU’s office in Berlin. Bakiyev has fled to Belarus.

Bakiyev was not the only regional leader with a menagerie: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly owns lions and rare Siberian tigers.,activists-rescue-deposed-kyrgyz-dictators-starved-leopards.html

News from WWF Mongolia office: Biodiversity day was celebrated in Mongolia

(Please click on the following link – in orange – in order to view photos of the celebration.) Biodiversity Day celebration in Mongolia UN proclaimed 2010 to be the International Biodiversity year. In the range of this year, biodiversity day was celebrated worldwide last Saturday, 22nd May. Mongolia was also part of this global event and organized series of public awareness activities. The day began with an interesting public lecture raising the biodiversity issues in the National University of Mongolia. Leading biology experts gave lectures not only highlighting the importance of biodiversity in today’s world, the values and benefits of protected areas in biodiversity conservation, but also introduced alarming fact sheets on the biodiversity loss and the intersectoral linkage of those issues e.g. in agriculture, economy, security and health sectors.
Furthermore, the Natural History Museum opened its doors to the public free of charge where leading university professors worked as museum guides which was a unique opportunity for lucky visitors.

The most exciting and inspiring event was the mobile campaigning of students who wore species costumes and with the masks put on the heads. The species include snow leopard, argali sheep, marmot, mongolian saiga and panda. Students delivered messages on behalf of those rare species through the sign boards. This was an impressive, but simple way to attract public and have the voices of animals heard. Three groups of “species” traveled in the hot spots of the capital city of Mongolia for three days in a row. Besides, WWF Mongolia undertakes one-month media campaign focusing on newspapers, specialized magazines and national TV channels to make audience aware of biodiversity issues. The issues of protected areas were stressed in the campaign to communicate their value and benefits to nature and humans.

The Research School at Nordens Ark 3-8 October 2010

A joint project between Nordens Ark and Hasselblad Foundation topics of conservation in the wild, rearing ex situ and reintroduction of threatened Felid species

Financed by the Hasselblad Foundation

Organized by Claes Andrén, Leif Blomqvist
and Lena M Lindén (Nordens Ark)
Conservation Biology at Nordens Ark 2010

A research school, October 3-8, aimed at postgraduate training in topics of conservation in the wild, rearing ex situ and reintroduction
of threatened Felid species

(Updated May 24)

The school is centred around the Foundation Nordens Ark at the Åby Fiord in mid Bohuslän on the Swedish west coast. The school will combine seminar series of both theoretical and practical character. These will be carried out by teachers, both with a more traditional academic status, and persons with the genuine knowledge of animal husbandry, rearing in captivity, and re-introduction in the field.

Organizers: Claes Andrén, Leif Blomqvist and Lena M Lindén

The course will be in English and is mending for 15 Ph.D. students. We would also very much appreciate if the speakers are prepared to stay over night the day they have their talk, allowing the students to discuss their subjects under more relaxed forms in the evening.

Preliminary program (some presentations not yet confirmed)

Sunday 3. October

Arrival of students /registration, reception open to 10.00 pm. Possibility to have light evening meal /PUB

Monday 4. October

General aspects of felid conservation

1. Conservation status of wild felids
Urs and Christine Breitenmoser, Co-chairs, IUCN Cat Specialst Group

2. Jointly managed ex situ populations of felids in EAZA
Alex Sliwa, EAZA Felid Chair, Cologne Zoo

3. How can zoos and museums contribute to felid conservation?
Alex Sliwa, EAZA Felid Chair, Cologne Zoo
Andrew Kitchener, Royal Museum of Scotland

4. The EAZA European Carnivore Campaign
Lesley Dickie, EAZA Executive director

Tuesday 5. October

In focus: The Lynx

1. Status of the Eurasian lynx in continental Europe
Urs and Christine Breitenmoser, Co-chairs, IUCN Cat Specialist Group

2. Reintroduction and restocking attempts of Eurasian lynx in continental Europe
Urs and Christine Breitenmoser, Co-chairs, IUCN Cat Specialist Group

3. Lynx reintroduction in Kampinos Natural Park, Poland
Jan Danylow, Kampinos Natural Park

4. Lynx reintroduction and restocking attempts in Telshiai forestry, Lituania
Linas Balciauskas, University of Vilnius

5. Action plan for the conservation of Eurasian lynx in Sweden
Henrik Andrén, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Grimsö

6. The Iberian lynx conservation breeding program
Astrid Vargas, Centro de Cria Iberíco el Acebuche

7. In situ conservation of the Iberian lynx
Miguel Angel Simón, Junta de Andalucia

Wednesday 6. October

In focus: The wild cat Felis silvestris

1. Conservation and reintroduction of the European wild cat in Germany
Marianne Hartmann, University of Zürich

2. Genetics of the wild cat
Beatrice Nussberger, University of Zürich

3. Status and conservation of the Scottish wildcat
Andrew Kitchener, Royal Museum of Scotland

Thursday 7. October

In focus: The snow leopard

1. Genetic and demographic management of conservation breeding programs oriented towards reintroduction
Kristin Leus, CBSG Europe, Antwerp Zoo

2. Snow leopard conservation management plan in Mongolia
Örjan Johansson, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Grimsö

3. Snow leopard conservation and the Snow Leopard Trust
Authors to be announced

Friday 8. October

In Focus: Large cats in the Russian Far East

1. Preparation for reintroduction of Amur leopards in the Russian Far East
Sarah Christie, Zoological Society of London

2. The role of zoos in Amur leopard conservaation
Sarah Christie, Zoological Society of London

3. Methods used to count tigers and leopards in the Russian Far East
Linda Kerley, Lazo Zapovednik , Zoological Society of London

4. Survival rates and causes of mortality of Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.
Linda Kerley, Lazo Zapovednik , Zoological Society of London

Drought followed by harsh winter spells disaster

By Karen Percy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia

Updated Wed May 26, 2010 4:07pm AEST

Disaster zone … A herder on the way to the local burial ground in the Zuunbayan-Ulaan district of Mongolia. (ABC News: Karen Percy)

It is an awe-inspiring sight: the vast plains of Mongolia where animals roam free. Local men and women are wearing the traditional deel, or robe, as they go about their work. It is a timeless image – romantic and rustic.

But as we get closer to the scene, upon a gentle slope there is a mass grave. The herders of the Uvurkhangai province in central Mongolia are burying the carcasses of hundreds upon hundreds of goats. There is a cloud of melancholy over the group. The stench is overwhelming.

Mongolia is counting the cost of one of the harshest winters on record. Across the country an estimated 8.5 million goats, sheep, horses, camels, yaks and cows have died of hunger or succumbed to the freezing conditions. That’s one in five of the entire national herd.

They’re the victims of what the Mongolians call a zhud – a condition where a summer drought is followed by a very cold and snowy winter. There were poor grass yields in the summer of 2009 in central Mongolia. Then winter hit early and with a vengeance.

“In the wintertime we had the situation here where it was -40 to -45 degrees celsius. So we made the decision to declare a disaster zone. It was a situation no one could deal with,” says Togtokhsuren Dulamorj, governor of Uvurkhangai province, which is one of the worst affected areas.

Freak snowstorms were also reported, claiming the lives of 16 people. The National Emergency Management Agency’s small provincial team saved more than 80 others who had been trapped or lost in the snow.

Frozen to death

In the Uyanga district, 450 kilometres south-west of the capital Ulan Bator, 45 per cent of the flock is dead because of the zhud.

Byambatseren Dondov, 51, shows us the rustic wooden shelter which should be buzzing with the sound of shearing. She lost her entire herd of about 30 sheep and goats, and ten cows. Only her neighbour’s animals remain.

“The livestock were frozen on the pasture. They froze while they were being carried back to the shelter. We had taken precautions but just couldn’t cope with the conditions,” she says.

Across the district she and her fellow herders are cleaning up under a cash-for-work project being overseen by the United Nations Development Program. They will earn from $60-90 for removing and burying the carcasses. It’s much needed money at a time when debts are due and food and other supplies are running low.

The spring conditions have been unpredictable and the work has sometimes been disrupted by snow storms, or extreme winds.

“It makes it difficult to reach the affected families. And then when the snow melts it is very slippery therefore it’s not possible to continue using vehicles and we have to stop for a while,” says Gunsen Bayarsakhan the UNDP’s office overseeing the project in Uvurkhangai province.

The clean-up is expected to be completed by the end of May.

Then the really hard work begins – trying to rebuild the industry and people’s lives.

The government has declared disaster zones in 15 of 21 provinces and through the United Nations is seeking $21m to assist in the immediate clean up of the dead animals. Australia has contributed $1m so far.

The money will also be used to rebuild the lives of the 800,000 herders who have been affected.

“People are taking it very hard. They are very depressed. Some have gone a bit crazy because of it,” says Zagar Buyumbadrakh, district governor of Zuunbayan-Ulaan, where two thirds of the livestock were wiped out.

Changing practices

This zhud has exposed huge problems in the way the livestock industry is run in Mongolia. Until 1995 it was controlled by government collectives and regulations. These days there is little thought to land and water management and last year there were 44-million animals roaming the land – well above the carrying capacity of the pastures. This has led to tensions among the herders.

The privatisation of the business also led many young, inexperienced herders to buy animals. When prices for cashmere wool hit $40 a kilogram three years ago, herders took on more goats – voracious eaters which tread heavily. Once goats made up 20 percent of the national herd. Now they account for 80 per cent.

As a result of these developments, and the effects of climate change over the same time period, the land is now suffering from degradation and desertification in some parts. Water supplies are being affected as well.

So part of the UNDP’s ongoing work will be to introduce better herding practices – with a focus on fewer, better-quality beasts, and keeping them inside during the worst parts of the winter.

Families are being offered land to establish vegetable plots, and communities are exploring small-scale businesses such as dairies or wool processing.

These might seem like simple aims, but they would have a big impact on the nomadic nature of Mongolia. The UNDP’s country director, Akbar Usmani, says it’s time for change.

“The key issue is how do we get some of these best practices out there? And doing some advocacy work in trying to change this way of thinking, to change this way of lifestyle. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a big challenge,” he says.

Some families have already left the countryside for the bigger centres in the hopes of finding other work. Those who remain are hoping to qualify for a government-run restocking program. And several local governors across Uvurkhangai province say there is interest in the alternative programs being offered.

While the herders have fiercely defended their way of life for thousands of years, there is now a sense that they are ready to try something different. They’re already using modern day tools such as motorbikes, satellite dishes and solar power. What are needed now are updated practices that will preserve the best traditions and ensure Mongolia’s nomadic herders last long into the future.

Karen Percy was given rare access to the situation earlier this month during a UN-backed media trip to the hardest hit areas of Central Mongolia.

First posted Wed May 26, 2010 4:00pm AEST

Herders contribute to conservation in the Altai Mountains in Mongolia

20 May 2010

By Onno van den Heuvel, Environment and Energy Programme Officer

The Altai Mountains are home to a variety of endangered species such as the snow leopard and the world’s largest wild sheep altai argali. Inhabited mainly by nomads, these mountains – stretching from the Gobi Desert in the south to the Siberian Tundra in the north, and forming a border between Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China – hold several biodiversity hotspots mostly located in remote areas with limited access.

In the Mongolian part of the Altai Mountains, herders still live a traditional nomadic lifestyle. They live in harsh conditions, with temperatures commonly below the freezing point for most of the year and basic services often not available within a 100km distance. Up to 1990, these herders depended on centralised planning system for their grazing patterns and steady income. In the 1990’s, a wave of liberalisation led to the removal of strict regulations which resulted in land degradation, unrestricted hunting and habitat loss.

To protect the biodiversity in the region, the Mongolian Ministry of Environment with the support of UNDP launched, in 2009, the Altai Sayan Ecoregion Project, which involves herders in conservation of the mountains.

Under the project, herders form community groups of 10 to 15 members. These groups develop community plans for emergencies and seek funds from grants. This better prepares the herders to respond to natural disasters, tackle bitter cold winters and improve their income.

The participating herders are, also, trained to identify and collect data on the endangered animals and plants in their area. Such monitoring has generated new information about the habitat areas and the population numbers of important species.

Having up to date information about herds of animals is important not only for the sake of their conservation, but also for the planning of hunting, which is a significant source of revenue in Mongolia.

The project also empowers the community groups by allowing them to register as the sole users of natural resources in their area. In return, the groups are expected to protect these resources and manage them according to the set rules and regulations. For instance, the groups ensure that hunting is only carried out in the permitted seasons so as not to deplete the animal stock.

Today, more than 45 communities, covering an area larger than 376,000 hectares, have registered as sole users of natural resources under the Altai Sayan Ecoregion Project. To guarantee that the system is not misused, state environmental inspectors are tasked to monitor all the registered community groups.

Lately, some communities have ventured into tourism, setting up gers – Mongolian nomadic house, and offering camel rides. Others have decided to focus on producing small handicraft products. The Project stands ready to support other interested communities, if they choose, to set up their own tourism services.;jsessionid=aCPyVVUabRa8?categoryID=349436&lang=en

Kazakhstan faces many severe environmental issues

Note: We have no information re: the source of this article’s information or what date this was published online. Located May 2010.

Kazakhstan faces several important environmental issues. As the site of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear testing programs, areas of the nation have been exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation, and there is significant radioactive pollution. The nation also has 30 uranium mines, which add to the problem of uncontrolled release of radioactivity. Kazakhstan has sought international support to convince China to stop testing atomic bombs near its territory, because of the dangerous fallout.

Mismanagement of irrigation projects has caused the level of the Aral Sea to drop by 13 m, decreasing its size by 50%. The change in size has changed the climate in the area and revealed 3 million hectares of land that are now subject to erosion.

Air pollution in Kazakhstan is another significant environmental problem. Acid rain damages the environment within the country and also affects neighboring countries. In 1992 Kazakhstan had the world’s 14th highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 297.9 million metric tons, a per capita level of 17.48 metric tons. In 1996, the total had dropped to 173.8 million metric tons. Pollution from industrial and agricultural sources has also damaged the nation’s water supply. UN sources report that, in some cases, contamination of rivers by industrial metals is 160 to 800 times beyond acceptable levels. Pollution of the Caspian Sea is also a problem.

Kazakhstan’s wildlife is in danger of extinction due to the overall level of pollution. According to current estimates, some areas of the nation will not be able to sustain any form of wildlife by the year 2015. In the areas where pollution is the most severe, 11 species of mammals and 19 species of birds and insects are already extinct. As of 2001, 15 mammal species, 15 bird species, 5 types of freshwater fish, and 36 species of plant are listed as threatened. Threatened species include the argali, Aral salmon, great bustard, snow leopard, and tiger. The mongolian wild horse has recently become extinct in the wild.

In Western Tuva, the conflict between the snow leopard and local residents remains active

May 12, 2010 from Tuva Online

According to the research data of WWF, the conflict between the snow leopard and the residents of Western Tuva remains active. The leopards are in danger of getting shot by the herdsmen in revenge for attacks on domestic livestock. WWF continues to actively work with the herdsmen. The conflict between irbis and people originated when the local shepherds took their herds to graze in areas where this predator lives, and the normal population density of hoofed animals dropped off because of poaching.

Lacking their natural prey, the snow leopards started to attack domestic livestock. The leopards attack goats and sheep; only rarely do they attack large animals like yaks and horses, in which case they concentrate on young animals. However, a case was documented where a female leopard and two grown cubs killed a large 8-year-old yak.

According to the collected evidence from 2000-2007 yrs, in Western Tuva (Mongun-Taiga and Bai-Taiga districts of Republic Tyva), every year about 80-100 heads of small horned cattle and 10-30 horses and yaks fall prey to snow leopards. Especially massive losses of sheep and goats – up to 80-90% of the total number of killed animals – occur when a leopard gets into the koshara, a roofed stable where the cattle spends the night.

According to the census carried out by WWF specialists on the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge in the spring of 2010, during the period from November 2009 to February 2010, there were 6 cases of snow leopard attack on livestock. Defending the livestock, which, in these regions, is the only source of subsistence, Tuvans often shoot the leopards in revenge for their savaged cattle. Considering that many shepherds suffer from irbis attacks, there is a potential threat that they may act as accomplices to the poachers who hunt the snow leopard for profit on order.

In the evaluation of experts, the total snow leopard population in Western Tuva is at least 18-20 individuals. The preservation of this grouping of the species who live on the Shapshal and Tsagan-Shibetu ridges, Chikhachevo and Mongun-Taiga, is one of the priority tasks of the snow leopard protection in the Russian Federation.

Altai-Sayan project of WWF invests a great effort to defuse the conflict between herdsmen and the snow leopard. For example, in October 2007, using data from WWF, the staff of the “Ubsunur depression” nature preserve together with the local residents worked on strengthening the stables as a means to prevent incursions of snow leopards at the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge ( as part of the project PROON/GEF).

Ventilation openings in the kosharas, as well as windows and openings above doors were covered over by strong wire netting, which successfully prevented snow leopard incursions into the stables. This simple expedient allowed the losses from snow leopard attacks on livestock in the kosharas to decrease by 80-90%, and also prevented deaths of the predators at the hands of the herdsmen. In that way, during the period from November 2007 to the present time, there was not a single case of an irbis getting into a koshara at the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge.

In 2009, a special Buddhist calendar was published with photos of the irbis and Kamby-Lama’s appeal to the residents of the mountains to protect the snow leopard and the areas of his range. Such a calendar can now be seen in many yurts and houses of herdsmen in Western Tuva.

Currently a co-operative project of WWF and PROON/GEF is being realized, working out a trans-border eco-tourism route “The country of the snow leopard”, whose core task is to involve the herdsmen of Tuva and Altai in tourist activities within the irbis range. The irbis will be used as the main attraction of Western Tuva for tourism, with the aim to show the local population the value of this species for development of tourism. Motives of traditional souvenir production will also involve the snow leopard.

In this way, the protection of snow leopard will become a direct source of income for the population from eco-tourism, and its development could become an effective instrument of protection of rare species in Western Tuva.

For information:

In 2010, with support from WWF, an evaluation of the numbers of a trans-border grouping of snow leopard on the Tsagan-Shibetu range (Russia and Mongolia). The total numbers of this grouping was calculated at 15-20 individuals, and its condition was appreciated as stable. In June 2010 the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution RAN, together with WWF of Russia, are planning to start a project of observing this group of snow leopards with the use of satellite collars and automatic photo cameras. These works should bring many new findings about the snow leopard in Western Tuva, and to suggest new actions to be taken for protection of this species.

Tatiana Ivanitskaya, translated by Heda Jindrak