Kazakhstan’s saiga antelope threatened by government

This video says about itself:

‘Saiga’ by Bill and Rahima Fitz (1999; English) (WARNING: Graphic content)

Apr 29, 2013

Short English-language film about the saiga antelope by documentary-makers Bill and Rahima Fitz. Produced in 1999. Narrated by Mark Wile.

When the documentary was produced poaching was recognized as a threat to saigas, but the devastating decline in saiga numbers of the 1990s had yet to be acknowledged.

WARNING: Includes graphic content of saiga poachers butchering live animals.

From Wildlife Extra:

Kazakhstan’s saiga threatened by new border fence and railway

Critically-endangered saiga antelope to face new barriers

September 2013. A new report by the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), called Saiga Crossing Options, has been published. The report describes and maps new threats for the charismatic saiga antelope.

Critically-endangered saiga antelope in Kazakhstan

The recovery of the critically-endangered saiga antelope in Kazakhstan faces serious challenges from new railways and boarder fences currently planned and constructed across Central Asia. The report not only identifies risks, but also proposes mitigation measures. FZS and partners in Kazakhstan are in close negotiation with the relevant ministries to discuss changes and technical modifications to avoid severe negative impacts to a species which only just recovered from their major decline in the 20th century.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) together with partners in Kazakhstan has been engaged in the conservation of steppes and the recovery of the endangered saiga antelope since 2005 and is strongly concerned about current infrastructure plans in the region which cut through important saiga habitat.

Border fence and railway

While measures to reduce poaching have been an urgent priority, new threats from the effects of fencing and transport corridors are emerging. As a result of Kazakhstan’s entry into a customs union with Russia and Belarus the nation has been strengthening its borders by constructing a fence. The purpose is border demarcation and to slow smuggling of narcotics. This fenced border will be an obstacle for saiga in their attempts to access habitat critical for their survival during the region’s harsh winters. To add to the increasing difficulties facing saiga, a new railroad corridor is under construction (Shalkar – Beyneu and Zhezkazgan – Saksaulskiy) through the Ustyurt and Betpak-Dala saiga populations.

The report was co-produced and co-funded by FZS as well as Fauna & Flora International (FFI).

Read the full report here.

Kuwait poachers kill rare sociable lapwings

This is called Sociable Lapwing Tracking – RSPB Video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Critically Endangered birds needlessly shot in Kuwait

Sociable lapwings targeted by hunters in Kuwait

March 2013. Sociable lapwings are declining due to low adult survival, which is almost certainly caused by being shot during migration. There is evidence from known stopover sites in north-eastern Syria and some areas in Iraq from 2008 and 2009 that these birds are widely hunted by both locals and visiting falconers from the Gulf States.

The latest reports from the region are the first to confirm the killing of sociable lapwings in Kuwait. The birds appear to have been shot on 12th March. Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations says: “Regrettably, this is the first confirmed hunting of sociable lapwings in Kuwait, and this latest information is of particular concern as these birds were returning to Kazakhstan where they would have started breed in 6 weeks time.”

In May 2012, the revision of the 2002 Action Plan was adopted by the 5th Meeting of the Parties to Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) in La Rochelle, France. This identified the urgent need for action across sociable lapwing range states to implement and enforce effective hunting legislation.

Sergey Dereliev, AEWA Technical Officer states: “Although Kuwait is not yet a Contracting Party to AEWA, the Government has expressed its interest in the objectives of the Agreement through attendance at the meeting in La Rochelle, and it could play a significant role in the Gulf region in helping to halt the decline of this Critically Endangered species by implementing and enforcing hunting legislation. By improving adult survival by 30% we could see a stabilization of the current population size on the way to a future increasing population trend.”

The RSPB has been supporting work on the Critically Endangered sociable lapwing since 2005, and from 2011 has been acting as Co-ordinator for the implementation of the International Single Species Action Plan for the species under a Memorandum of Cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Courtesy of Birdlife.

Domesticated horses’ origin research

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Archaeological research is done between a herd of horses at the bank of the Waal [river].

From the BBC:

8 May 2012 Last updated at 07:24 GMT

Mystery of horse taming ‘solved’ by gene study

By Helen Briggs, BBC News

Horses were domesticated 6,000 years ago on the grasslands of Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan, a genetic study shows.

Domestic horses then spread across Europe and Asia, breeding with wild mares along the way, research published in the journal PNAS suggests.

The work, by a Cambridge University team, brings together two competing theories on horse domestication.

The matter has been hotly contested by scientists.

Archaeological evidence suggests horses were tamed in the western part of the Eurasian Steppe (Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan).

Experts think they were used for riding, and as a source of meat and milk.

However, these archaeological clues – such as traces of horse milk found in ancient pots from the western Eurasian Steppe – are at odds with evidence from mitochondrial DNA.

These studies suggest domestication happened in many places across Europe and Asia.

The new study looked at nuclear DNA samples taken from 300 horses living in eight countries in Europe and Asia.

Genetic data was fed into computer models developed to look at different scenarios for domestication.

Dr Vera Warmuth from the Department of Zoology at Cambridge said: “It shows that horse domestication originated in the western part of the Steppes and that the spread of domestication involved lots of integration of wild horses.”

The theory explains why evidence from mitochondrial DNA – which contains genes inherited solely from the mother – suggests horses were domesticated many times, in different places.

In fact, it appears that wild mares were used to re-stock herds of existing domesticated horses, perhaps because they did not breed easily in captivity.

This is the case with Przewalski’s horse, which is the closest wild relative of modern horses.

Big sociable lapwing flock discovery in Kazakhstan

This video is called Sociable Lapwing Survey.

BirdLife International scientists monitoring migrating Sociable Lapwings in the heart of the Great Steppe have recently discovered the largest single flock seen in Kazakhstan since 1939: here.

Sociable lapwing on Texel: here. In the Oostvaardersplassen: here.