Asian antelope facing multiple problems

March 19, 2008 at 3:05 PM

NEW YORK, March 19 (UPI) -- Saiga, an Asian antelope, isn't only an endangered species but is threatened by development in Mongolia that might cut off a key migration route.

Wildlife Conservation Society researchers tracked saiga with GPS collars and discovered a "migration bottleneck" -- a narrow corridor of habitat that connects two populations. The scientists said the corridor, just 3 miles wide, is threatened by herders with livestock, along with increased traffic from trucks and motorcycles.

"Like other species of the steppes and deserts, saiga have avoided extinction by being able to migrate long distances as their habitat changed over time," said University of Montana Professor Joel Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist. "Given the uncertainty of how global climate change might affect specific regions and how and where species might persist, prudent conservation strategies must take into account the movements of highly mobile species like saiga."

Saiga once were found in Alaska and the Yukon but vanished in North America after the last ice age and now exist only in isolated pockets in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kalmykia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

The study appears in the Open Conservation Biology Journal.

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