Rapid assessment of the mammalian community in the Badhyz Ecosystem, Turkmenistan, October 2014
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Original versionKaczensky, P. & Linnell, J. D. C. 2015. Rapid assessment of the mammalian community in the Badhyz Ecosystem, Turkmenistan, October 2014 – NINA Report 1148. 38 pp.
Kaczensky, P. & Linnell, J. D. C. 2015. Rapid assessment of the mammalian community in the Badhyz Ecosystem, Turkmenistan, October 2014 – NINA Report 1148. 38 pp. We visited Badhyz State Nature Reserve in southern Turkmenistan and the surrounding area between 12th and 26th November 2014. 12 days were spent within the reserve and surrounding wildlife sanctuaries (Gyzyljar and Chemenabat wildlife sanctuaries), during which we drove 763 km and walked 68 km. In addition, we spent 3 days in the office discussing with the reserve director and the head of the science department and collating existing information from the park's records and from recent camera-trapping studies that the reserve has conducted. The objective of the expedition was to conduct a rapid assessment of the status of the populations of wild ungulates – kulan (Asiatic wild ass), urial (wild sheep), and goitered gazelle. However, because of the need to view species conservation within an ecosystem context we also collated information on community structure and the presence of the other key species that make up the Badhyz ecosystem. The Badhyz grasslands ecosystem represents a complex and relatively intact ecosystem. Our general impression is that a variety of rodents (sousliks, gerbils, voles, and jerboas) that exist at very high densities, supporting a large community of mammalian (red fox, wild cat), avian (raptors) and reptilian (snakes, monitor lizards) predators. Rodents may well be the dominant herbivores in this ecosystem and deserve further investigation. By comparison, the only medium sized herbivore, the Tulai hare, appears to occur only at very low densities. Our visit confirmed the presence of all of the expected large mammals. We personally saw urial (464 observations), goitered gazelle (346 observations), kulan (59 observations), wolves (5 individuals), red foxes, and wildcats along with many fresh tracks from striped hyaena and wild boar, some older leopard tracks and one observation of a set of potential caracal track. The reserve's camera trapping also provides evidence for leopards, hyaenas and wolves, kulan, gazelles, urial in addition to red foxes and wildcats. Visual observations by reserve staff also confirm the presence of caracal and honey badger. The only species missing from the ecosystem are the Asiatic cheetah, which has not been seen since the 1960's, and the Bezoar wild goat. Among the carnivores, our observations of tracks and the reserve's records (visual and camera trapping) confirm the presence of multiple leopard individuals, including adult males and reproductive females. Striped hyaena and wolves appear to be widespread throughout the reserve and relatively abundant. Caracal, honey badger and korsac fox appear to occur at very low densities, and only in small parts of the reserve. Our own observations support the picture obtained by the reserve's censuses that the populations of gazelle and urial are large and are well distributed throughout the reserve. Although the census methodology used by the reserve does not provide statistical estimates of uncertainty, the numbers they have obtained (3700 gazelle and 1600 urial in 2013) do not seem unrealistic. We observed comparatively few kulan, and only a few fresh tracks or signs of presence such as dung. We had 59 observations, but we almost certainly saw the same individuals several times. The census methodology used by the reserve indicates a population of more than 400 kulan using the reserve in spring. Based on our extensive survey of the reserve it is almost certain that the majority of individuals must have been somewhere else (outside the reserve) at the time of our visit.