The Kulan is back in the Central Steppes of Kazakhstan
For the first time in more than a century kulan – or Asiatic wild ass – are now roaming the central steppes of Kazakhstan. On 24th October 2017, a first group of nine animals was released into an acclimatisation enclosure on the edge of the Altyn Dala protected area in central Kazakhstan. The animals had been transported 1200 km by helicopter from Altyn Emel National Park in the southeast of the country. They will be released in early spring.
Frankfurt/Nürnberg/Astana. This is the first step in a multi-year project that aims to restore the full range of large herbivores to this unique area of steppe habitat. The current project aims to move 30-40 kulan from Altyn Emel to the central steppes during the next 3-4 years. The population of kulan in Altyn Emel National Park has grown to such an extent that the park now has a surplus of animals that can be used to found additional populations.
"The initial translocation of nine animals this year was a pilot project to test the methodology and logistics of animal capture, handling, transport and release,” says John Linnell, senior research scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) who co-coordinated the translocation. Steffen Zuther, project leader of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative and main implementation partner in Kazakhstan, points out: “The approach using a corral to capture animals, chemical immobilisation for handling, a helicopter for transport, and a large acclimatisation enclosure at the release site worked rather well. For future years we will do a bit of fine-tuning.”
The project is coordinated by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and implemented with the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) in partnership with the Committee of Forestry and Wildlife (CFW) of the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and Nuremberg Zoo within the framework of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative (ADCI). Technical veterinary assistance was provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Austrian Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology.