S. Gombobaatar: The overall plan to protect Mongolian birds is set, now we need to implement it into our current laws


The following interview is with Ph.D. Gombobaatar, Director at the Institute of Bird Studies.

-Certain Mongolian birds are in the “Red Book” of endangered animals. Please tell us more about the birds and the classification of “endangered animals.” How were our birds classified before?
-In 2005, a number of organizations, institutes and Government bodies (the Government of Mongolia, the old Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, National University of Mongolia, Mongolian Academy of Sciences) in addition to the Kingdom of Netherlands and the World Bank, began a project titled “Encyclopedia of Biology.” During this project, a plan was developed to include many of Mongolian mammals, marine animals, birds, vertebrates and non-vertebrates.
The latest part of the project is to protect those animals that were added to the Red Book.

Between 1970 and 1980, Mongolian bird researchers made studies into the rarity and endangerment of Mongolian birds by their own evaluation. Those labeled “endangered” by this research were outlawed based on this, we outlawed the hunting, killing and exportation of those animals.
But looking at that list today, some of the birds that were included in the Mongolian Red Book are not really rare. We noted that our evaluation was very old and outdated compared to other more recent methods.
So we decided to evaluate the rarity of our birds with more modern methods. In other words, we classified them in ways that can be associated with other international organizations. Total of 40 researchers from seven countries made the evaluation.
-How many species of birds are there in Mongolia? Exactly how many of them are in danger of extinction?
-Out of 476 species of birds in Mongolia, 330 of them are migrant birds that only come to Mongolia to breed. Out of those, the Dalmatian Pelican and the Siberian Crane are in danger of extinction. Although the Dalmatian Pelican is becoming rarer, it is not in direct danger of extinction in the world, yet. But in Mongolia, it could be extinct by tomorrow. This bird lives in only a few lakes in Mongolia. They also breed there. Before 1990s, there was a large flock of Dalmatian Pelican used to live and breed at Khar Us Lake.
But during the 1980s, many Dalmatian Pelican were shot dead because its beak became popular in making combs for fast, racing horses. Its numbers greatly reduced because of that. Additionally, spring and autumn wildfires, reduction of fish in the lakes, and the expansion in the numbers of domestic animals (sheep, goat herds) have all resulted in the reduction of bird as well.
In the past few years, we have not heard of any information about a couple of Dalmatian Pelicans breeding in Mongolian lakes. It means that they have stopped coming to Mongolia during breeding seasons. We would rarely see one or two of them here and there, and a flock with a maximum of six birds in them would be rarely seen nesting by certain lakes.
-What about the Siberian Cranes?
-This bird is considered in danger of extinction worldwide. Its numbers were always few. A recent study shows that there is an approximate total of only 3,750 adult Siberian Cranes in the world. They do not breed in Mongolia, but in Yucatan. In Mongolia, the most number of Siberian Crane occurrences was four. They are usually seen in rural areas either alone or in a pair. But now, they are not even seen in ones or twos.
-How many of the above mentioned two birds are left in Mongolia and where do they migrate to?
-Both of them are in numbers that do not reach 20. The Siberian Cranes spend their winters at a large Northeastern lake in China. But we have not yet identified the migratory routes of the Dalmatian Pelicans. We need to place space wave-sensors to identify them.
-What are other endangered birds in Mongolia?
-Relict Gulls, White-Headed Ducks, Short-toed Snake Eagles, Reed Parrotbills, Pallas’ Fish Eagles andGreater Spotted Eagles are all in danger of extinction in Mongolia.
The Reed Parrotbill is of special interest. They breed by Mongolian Tashgai Five Lakes, Kalkha River and by Buir Lake. But their numbers rapidly dropped due to wildfires, domestic animals and the general reduction of their habitat.
The Reed Parrotbill are bred and raised in and around reeds and feed on it too. It is obvious that when the reeds reduce, their numbers would decrease too. They nest by reeds and their nests and hatchings burn in a lot of numbers during wildfires, especially during spring seasons. These birds do not travel very far, the only times they move around is when they move between lakes. When reed runs out by the lake, these birds become extinct in that area. Immediate attention is needed to preserve this species of bird.
-There are so many birds that are labeled “no data.” What is the reason for this?
-There are 15 different species of birds that we do not have enough data on. We cannot evaluate their extinction rate or its current status by international standards because of the lack of data. In other words, these birds require more research and study. We need to identify their numbers, living habitats, emigration routes and locations.
There are 12 birds that are considered nearly extinct, meaning that there is a very high chance that you will not encounter these birds in Mongolia anymore. If negative effects of human population are kept at this rate or even increases, these birds will become extinct in Mongolia. Nearly extinct means that they are still around, but have a chance of swiftly becoming extinct if not kept in check.
-What are the major reasons of birds becoming extinct?
-We have made many studies into finding reasons why, how and which birds are becoming extinct.
There are two causes to why they are reduced in numbers: external and internal causes. In Mongolia, we have did not get any chance to examine cases where birds themselves are causing their numbers to decrease. But we know, through studies, that they are partially and fully affected by human activities. Lately there has been drought in large areas that have caused swamps and marshy areas to dry up. Another case is that birds have been losing its habitat because of mining operations in those areas. Additionally, as I have mentioned several times before wildfires are another major reason for the reduction of their numbers. High-voltage substations also cause problems for birds. Yet another one is hunting, both legal and illegally.
-What actions are being taken to protect birds?
-Yes, there are operations we undertook aiming to protect the birds. There are respective laws governing the protection of birds. The Red List and Red Book are one of the many projects we are taking to handle our problems. Frequently we develop a program to protect the birds as well. For example, we initiated a program in 2005 to protect hawks and now we are underway in our program to protect camels. The Government also has programs on defending various creatures.
They are just few of many methods on defending and protecting endangered animals. There are also international agreements and conventions on protecting animals and Mongolia have joined them.
-What are we currently doing to save endangered birds, such as the Dalmatian Pelicans and the Siberian Cranes?
-We do not currently have anything aimed at protecting these birds.
-How is the work to protect birdsevaluated? What should we do to protect birds?
-The Red List has all the animals in Mongolia, without the bias of “not extinct” or “extinct” or any other labels these animals may have. We classify them by international set names.
The Red List also includes plans and ways to protect animals and other evaluations, such as how effective the current ways are and what we can do in the future to better our activities and what other birds or animals are in the need of special attention.
The overall plan to protect Mongolian birds is set, now we need to implement it into our current laws.

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Posted by on Nov 26 2012. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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