Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe is the only existing intensive, long-term project on numerous species including Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica), argali sheep (Ovis ammon), and cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) and its research outcomes are helping shape conservation management for target species and in the Ikh Nart Reserve. The project has determined critical habitat and habitat use ranges for several target species. Based on these data, project staff identified important sites for the creation of a core area (critical habitat for several species) and by working with local people to balance their needs with the needs of wildlife, this core area has been established and important regions for Reserve expansion are being pursued.
Similarly, through wing tagging and radio tracking cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) and leg banding lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), the project determined nesting, dispersal and foraging patterns for these species. The team found that Ikh Nart represents a significant breeding area for both species, leading to designation of Ikh Nart as an Important Bird Area. Earthwatch scientists also learned that South Korea provides important wintering grounds for immature vultures, indicating the importance of working with Korea to protect important habitat there. Also, mortality data have identified domestic guard dogs as an important and previously unrecognized source of mortality for argali sheep and ibex, leading to co-operation with local herders to control their dogs and reduce this form of mortality.
The project studies the influence of nest and nest site characteristics on nest failure. Currently nest site characteristics have been collected for over 445 nest sites including those of lesser kestrel, common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), little owl (Athene noctua), saker falcon (Falco cherrug), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), black kite (milvus migrans), and upland buzzards (Buteo hemilasius).
These research and conservation efforts provide benefits at local, national, and international levels. At the local level, the project provides jobs and additional income to local people and it helps protect and better manage the wildlife and steppe of the Reserve. A good relationship with the local government has resulted in a cooperative partnership to monitor the Reserve with a team of rangers, one of whose salary is supported by Earthwatch. In addition, the project helped establish a sister park relationship between Ikh Nart and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California that has already resulted in additional resources for Ikh Nart, training for rangers and other staff and an exchange program. The project also helped to establish a new ecotourism camp that provides further jobs and income for the local government to help manage the Reserve. Perhaps most importantly, poaching has mostly ceased, illegal mining has been curtailed, and wildlife populations are growing. These growing populations produce excess young that disperse to other areas. For example, Argali sheep are being observed in areas from which they were previously exterminated decades ago.
In 2009 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) selected Ikh Nart Nature Reserve as a model protected area (along with 2 others) for a new project on protected areas and sustainability. Of all the protected areas they evaluated, Ikh Nart received the highest score for conservation management.
Dulamtseren, S., S. Shar, J. D. Murdoch, R. P. Reading, J. Gantulga, D. Usukhjargal, and S. Buyandelger. (2009). Contributions to the distribution of the marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna Guldenstaedt, 1770) in Mongolia. Small Carnivore Conservation 40: 29-32.
Murdoch, J. & Reading, R.P. (2009) Body size and sexual dimorphism among a population of corsac and red foxes in central Mongolia. Mammalia, 73: 72-75
Murdoch, J.D., T. Munkhzul, S. Buyandelger, R. P. Reading, and C. Sillero-Zubiri. (2010) Seasonal food habits of corsac and red foxes in Mongolia and the potential for competition. Mammalian Biology 75: 36-44.
Reading, R.P., Amgalanbaatar, S., Kenny, D., DeNicola, A. & Tuguldur, E. (2007) Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) home ranges in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia: preliminary findings. Mongolia Journal of Biological Sciences, 5(1-2): 29-37
Reading, R.P., Kenny, D., Amgalanbaatar, S., DeNicola, A. & Wingard, G. (2009) Argali lamb (Ovis ammon) morphometric measurements and survivorship in Mongolia. Mammalia, 73(2): 98-104