Mongolian Hedgehog Research

To study the life history and co-existence of hedgehogs in Mongolia


Two species of hedgehogs - the Daurian hedgehog, Hemiechinus dauricus, and the long-eared hedgehog, Hemiechnius auritus,  inhabit the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in eastern Mongolia, an island of rocky outcrops in a sea of grass that forms the best and most intact example of an undisturbed steppe ecosystem and is also one of the last areas in the Palearctic that still supports stable herds of larger vertebrates. This ecosystem is threatened, however, by several factors: overgrazing, agricultural fragmentation, mining, oil exploitation and extraction, and infrastructure development are among the most serious threats in this region. Most of these threats are concentrated along the Trans-Siberian railroad.

Currently, both species of hedgehog appear to be faring well and are relatively common within their ranges. A few years ago, mammalogists believed that only the long-eared hedgehog inhabited this portion of Mongolia (Dulamtseren 1970, Corbet 1980, Reeve 1994), research carried out by Denver Zoo scientists revealed however the presence of both species. The two species are of similar size and related genetically (they are obviously in the same genus), so the obvious question that needed to be understood was how they could co-exist in the same habitat.

A project was therefore initiated in 2005 at the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve with the objective to gain more information on the Daurian hedgehog (which has never been studied) and to understand how two species - the Daurian hedgehod and the long-eared hedgehog - that are very similar in size, genetics, and their ecological requirements, can co-exist in the same habitat.

Hedgehogs were inadvertently captured in soft leg hold traps that were being used for another study. Animals were also captured by sight while conducting other activities at night. The captured animals were sedated and given thorough physical exams, sexed, measured and weighed, and provided with a telemetry transmitter. The hedgehogs were held at least 24 hours to insure full recovery following anesthesia and transmitter attachment, and then were released during the night at the capture site. Data were then collected on hedgehog movement patterns, home range use, den characteristics, and food (through scat analyses). These data are currently being analysed. Upon analysis a report on home and core ranges, activity patterns, and feeding habits will be published, which, hopefully, will help understand what unique features of the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve permit the co-existence of these similar species.

WAZA Conservation Project 06029
 is implemented by the Denver Zoological Foundation in collaboration with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Oxford University, and Mongolian Conservation Coalition.


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