Gobi B Khulan Project
To study and promote the survival of Asiatic wild asses in Mongolia
Mongolia is an important stronghold of the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus), or khulan in Mongolian, and has a global responsibility to ensure their conservation. Presently, Mongolia is anticipating the development of a commercialised agricultural sector that could easily engender a far greater intrusion of human activities in the Gobi environment than current pastoral livestock production. Development of other sectors of the Mongolian economy, especially mining and road construction, could also impact environmental security in general and habitat needs of the khulan and associated wildlife in particular. At present, the status and trend of the khulan population in Mongolia is difficult to assess, as no standardised monitoring has been installed and very little is known about khulan ecology and movement patterns. We believe that without immediate conservation actions prospects for long-term survival of the khulan are poor and the species may potentially face extinction, as did the other native equid species of Mongolia, the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii).
The Gobi Khulan Project (1) assesses to what extent (if any) the wild ass is affected or competes with domestic livestock and other human intrusions, and to what degree, (2) is developing a dynamic habitat model for khulan, (3) assesses the spatial integrity of the khulan population in Mongolia, and (4) tests ground survey methods to design future and interpret past wildlife surveys. The spatial scale and the temporal resolution of the anticipated habitat model are unique and in combination with satellite telemetry (seven khulans are being monitored since July 2002 in the B region of the Greater Gobi Strictly Protected area, and since 2005, seven additional animals in the South Gobi using ARGOS satellite telemetry collars), direct observations and genetic analysis, the proposed project will break new grounds for the understanding and conservation of khulan and other wide-ranging desert and steppe species in central Asia. Rigorous testing and spatial modelling of a large dataset from ground surveys of low density large ungulates in a desert-steppe ecosystem can be expected to have implications for future designs. Subsequently, these results will be integrated in the development of a long-term conservation and management plan that should become the basis for both khulan protection and rural livelihood development.
WAZA Conservation Project 04017 is operated by the International Takhi Group, with logistics coordinated by Langenberg Animal Park (Switzerland). Research coordinated and supervised by the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Austria) and the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Freiburg (Germany). With additional support from the Austrian Science Foundation, Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank, the World Bank through the Sustainable Livelihoods Project in Mongolia and the Austrian Zoo Association.
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