Sunday, July 25, 2010

Record Numbers of Arabian Ungulates Killed by Fence

DEATH TRAP: The fence stopped animals finding sources of food and water during dry spells. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra

A fence may have been starving gazelles and other ungulates to death in Saudi Arabia, according to the latest research.

Die-offs of large numbers of globally-threatened Arabian oryx and Arabian Sand Gazelles were recorded from 1991 to 2008 in the fenced Mahazat as-Sayd protected area in Saudi Arabia. Researchers found that most deaths occurred during the summer, when rainfall was negligible. The animals starved to death because of the reduced availability, accessibility and quality of food plants in the area.

Grazing of Arabian Oryx habitat depends on rainfall and animals move over great distance in response to rain. However, the fence around the protected area at Mahazat as-Sayd prevents the natural movement of animals and artificially concentrates animals into what may be an unfavourable habitat.

The Sand Gazelle is a highly gregarious and migratory species, moving long distances in search of a good quality pastures - in central Asia they are known to cover several hundreds of kilometers. Researchers believe that it is, therefore, likely that fences such as the one around Mahazat as-Sayd protected area are exacerbating the effects of drought.

In an attempt to reduce the catastrophic effects, a strategy and action plan has since been developed to manage the Oryx and Gazelle within the reserve, providing food and water at five camps as an emergency plan to minimise mortalities.

Via Wildlife Extra

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