Wednesday, 11 September 2013

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.

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

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).

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