Asiatic Wild Ass (Khulan)

The khulan or Asian wild ass is found today in southern Mongolia and parts of northern China. Historically, they were also present in Kazakhstan before being exterminated through hunting. Khulan are now listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List and scientific evidence suggest that abundance has declined globally by more than 50 per cent over the past two decades (Moehlman et al. 2008). They are also included in Appendix I of CITES, and Appendix II of CMS. Mongolia’s population comprises 80 per cent of the total global population, with an estimated population of 35,000-40,000 individuals (Ransom et al. 2012, Buuveibaatar and Strindberg 2014). Although fully protected, wild asses are actively chased away or illegally killed by people and the mere presence of people and their livestock at water points can limit or block access for Asiatic wild asses (Kaczensky et al. 2006). Competition with domestic livestock on resources may also pose a threat to this equid (Campos-Arceiz et al. 2004).

Khulan move in a nomadic pattern, tracking unpredictable resources in their desert environment. Some of their movements can be enormous, travelling thousands of kilometres in just a few weeks in search of food and water, and their annual rangecan cover up to 70,000 km(Kaczensky et al. 2011a). They are directly impacted by fenced railroads, which form the absolute eastern border of their range in Mongolia (Kaczensky et al. 2011a). They may also be impacted by border fences between Mongolia and China, which appear to have separated remaining animals into distinct subpopulations on either side of the border. Their movements are also affected by developing roads and railway lines associated with increasing resource extraction (Lkhagvasuren et al. 2012, Batsaikhan et al. 2014).

To better understand the impact of mining related infrastructure development on movements and distribution of khulan in the Southern Gobi, WCS has been monitoring their movements since 2013, within the Core Biodiversity Monitoring Project. As a part of this project, we are aiming to monitor traffic volume on a landscape scale across the Southern Gobi. To gather data on traffic volume in the region, we use TRAFx vehicle counters installed on the major roads. This data is intended to help for better planning mitigation measures to reduce impacts.

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