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Inspection of the fence along the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the Ustyurt region at saiga migration routes

01.07.2016

Already in autumn 2011 Kazakhstan started with the construction of a border fence at the border to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan of about 1.7 m height, made up from 8 strands of barbed wire. By the end of 2012 this construction work was finished. On a length of not less than 150 km, this fence crosses the habitat of the critically endangered Saiga antelope of the Ustyurt population. This population lives most time of the year in Kazakhstan, but in winter migrates across the border to Uzbekistan to its wintering areas. The fence at the border poses a new threat to saiga by decreasing the size of available habitat at the Ustyurt plateau by cutting of the wintering areas. Due to being unable to cross the fence in winter (and returning to the north in spring), the population number is likely to decrease, since they are forced to stay in suboptimal habitats. In winter, they are threatened by starvation and extremely low temperatures, in spring they cannot reach good pastures, which are located further to the north.

Facing this critical situation, with support by Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) an expert was hired in 2013, who assessed the problem related to the fence and in the end developed recommendations for a mitigation of negative effects of the fence on saiga migration. The main suggestion of the final report “Saiga crossing options” was to remove the lower strands of barbed wire from the fence at the Ustyurt saiga population range, which would allow saiga to cross the fence below the remaining lines of wire (http://www.cms.int/en/publication/saiga-crossing-options).

As a reply to the official request from ACBK to implement this recommendation, the border service of Kazakhstan agreed to remove the lower three wires between two fence poles each kilometre at the saiga range, which would mean the creation of crossing points for the animals in a distance of one kilometre from each other.

Finally, from 19th to 21st June 2016, a visual inspection of the fence was conducted in the region of saiga migration routes at the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The mission was organised in the framework of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative by ACBK with support from the Committee of Forestry and Wildlife and conducted together with State Entreprise “Okhotzooprom” and the border service of Kazakhstan.

Inspection started from the west around the border of Aktiubinskaya oblast and ended in the region of the Aral Sea. The participants were able to establish that the border service had implemented the promised changes of the border fence to full extent and opened passages for the migration of saiga. The total number of such passages amounts to 125. Besides this, there is still one fence section of 11 km length, where the lower strands of barbed wires do not exist at all.

The achieved changes are supposed to solve the problem of the barrier effect of the fence and allow saiga to continue there annual migration. Ongoing monitoring especially with satellite collars will provide evidence for this.


Saiga Crossing Options (pdf)

 

Photo: А.Putilin, ACBK

Фото: А. Путилин, АСБК Фото: А. Путилин, АСБК фото: А.Путилин, АСБК

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