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Reproductive Ecology of the Critically Endangered Saiga Antelope

Objective

This project will characterise saiga reproductive behaviour and the influence of human disturbance on reproductive success, and develop a non-invasive, scientifically based programme for monitoring fecundity. Field studies of individual behaviour during the rutting and birth periods will enable us to develop a model of saiga behaviour, and understand the complex interactions between human disturbance and reproductive success. We will carry out the study in two populations; one that appears to reproducing normally despite heavy hunting (Ustiurt) and the other that is displaying aberrant reproductive behaviour (Kalmykia).

We will also develop and test a non-invasive method for determining the pregnancy status of individual females, based on hormone levels in faecal samples. Pregnancy rate is a key factor in population dynamics, but so far has only been measured by killing heavily pregnant females, an unacceptable practice given the current conservation status of the species. Testing will be carried out first in controlled conditions using captive saigas. Having demonstrated the potential of the method we will then test it for feasibility in the field. This direct measure of fecundity will be compared to field data on population age structure collected at different points in the year, which can act as an indirect measure of fecundity. This comparison will enable us to evaluate the accuracy and feasibility of different fecundity measures and hence recommend a scientifically based monitoring programme.

The project meets the objectives of INTAS by carrying out original scientific research in the fields of ecology and nature conservation, that is of direct and urgent policy relevance for the three NIS countries concerned. The research will aim to meet the highest academic standards, and hence to be of wide interest to the international academic community in the fields of behavioural ecology and conservation. The project will have broad relevance beyond saiga antelopes, to policies for the conservation of hunted species in general.

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Coordinator

University of London Imperial College London

Address

Exhibition Road
Sw7 2az London

United Kingdom

Administrative Contact

Eleanor MILNER-GULLAND (Dr)

Participants (6)

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Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan Institute of Zoology

Uzbekistan

Center for Study and Conservation of Wild Animals in Kalmykia

Russia

Kazakh National Agricultural University

Kazakhstan

Ministry of Education Institute of Zoology

Kazakhstan

Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Ecology and Evolution

Russia

University of Oslo

Norway

Project information

Grant agreement ID: INTAS 2003-51-3579

  • Start date

    1 March 2004

  • End date

    28 February 2007

Funded under:

IC-INTAS

Coordinated by:

University of London Imperial College London

United Kingdom