The recovery of the critically-endangered saiga antelope –among the world’s oldest mammal species –faces serious challenges from new railways, roads and fences currently being constructed across Central Asia.
According to a new report by the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), modifying the design of these structures can avoid major disruption to the saiga antelope’s migration routes, and prevent a further decline in the population of the species, whose numbers plummeted by 90 per cent from 1 million to less than 50,000 animals inthe 1990s.
In Kazakhstan, around 1600 kilometres of additional rail routes are set to be built by 2016 as part of a ‘New Silk Road’ to increase overland trade between Asia and Europe. This railway corridor will cut through uninhabited steppe areas, directly in the migration pathsof the saiga antelope.
The growth in extractive industries in the region is also leading to the construction of new railways, roads and fences in other parts of Central Asia.
The new CMS report, which is supported by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Fauna & Flora International, outlines solutions on how to make these potential barriers more permeable. It incorporates results the tracking of the movements of the saiga antelopeusing GPS technology. The monitoring seeks to establish the extent to which new rail lines, roads and fences represent impenetrable barriers for the animals.
“The report offers practical guidelines to decision makers to reduce the impact of the construction of infrastructure on Kazakhstan’s unique migratory wildlife and landscape,”said CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers.
Central Asia has the largest intact and interconnected steppe and grassland ecosystems worldwide with major animal migrations. More....