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March 21, 2017
PROJECTS PALLAS CAT: INVESTIGATION FOR SAVING (Clarifying Conservation Status in Russia)
Project report (Summary)
Project head: Anna Barashkova
Institution: Non-governmental organization Siberian Environmental Centre (SibEcoCentre)
The Project aimed to clarify current conservation status of Pallas' cat in Russia and to build the base for further conservation efforts (for elaborating Conservation Strategy and Action Plan)
1. To start a discussion in Government Agency and conservationist community to increase Pallas' Cat priority in governmental conservation politics
2. To organize snow-tracking and density estimation of Pallas' Cat throughout the Russian part of the range
3. To identify Pallas' Cat population hot spots throughout Russian part of the Pallas' Cat range
4. To identify areas where Pallas' Cat was extinct during last decades
5. To make an estimation of existing protected areas sufficiency and effectiveness for the Pallas' Cat protection
6. To elaborate the map (GIS) of Pallas' Cat distribution throughout the Russian part of the range
7. To build a network of Pallas' Cat's enthusiasts at the local level
Part 1. Providing with Pallas Cat permanent monitoring in Russian
Our objective was to start a discussion in Government Agencies and conservationist community to increase Pallas' Cat priority in governmental conservation policies.
We have two Government Agencies that are responsible for wild animals' management and conservation. The Federal Agency for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (FAVPS) - serves as the organ that controls and supervises the protection, the reproduction and the use of animals, which belong to game species. The Federal Service for Supervising Natural Resources (FSSNR) - is responsible for federal protected areas as well as for rare and endangered species that are listed in national Red Data Book. Regional sub-units of FAVPS conduct annual censuses of wild animals to evaluate catch quota for each species in every region. These censuses cover the main part of territories, which Pallas' Cat inhabits in Russia.
Before has being put into the national Red Book in 1978 Pallas' Cat was a game species. And though the data on Pallas' Cat was nevertheless poor any whatsoever was known about Pallas' Cat annual purchase. So Pallas' Cat's number and its changes could be estimated. Paradoxically red listing led to stopping regular censuses of Pallas' Cat: the cat was excluded from list of game species and so FAVPS and hunters associations stopped to census it while FSSNR has no money and specialists for counting any species and is unable to do it.
So we achieved to include Pallas' Cat into the list of species that are counted annually by regional FAVPSs not to determine catch quotas but to monitor Pallas' Cat populations. For that we applied to FSSNR to make a request to FAVPS to include Pallas' Cat into species list they survey every year. The FSSNR supported our request. Besides the FSSNR supported our request it served the instruction to the heads of national protected areas where Pallas' Cat live to give special consideration to Pallas' Cat study and conservation.
But unfortunately FAVPS nowadays is on the stage of reconstruction; probably the functions of this Federal Agency will be transferred to sub-national level (to Subjects of Russian Federation).
In addition, we had some talks with specialists from Buryatia FAVPS who carry out censuses of species and most probably will continue to do it after FAVPS's reconstruction. They intend to collect data on Pallas' Cat during annual winter censuses. We began to talk about it and intend to have such agreements in other regions. There is one more organization in Buryatia Republic that relates wild animals. This is the Buryatia Nature Management and Wildlife Conservation State Institution (so called "Nature of Buryatia") that was created only some years ago within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife Conservation of Buryatia Republic. This organization has the department of republic game reserves. Its officials conduct censuses of all animals that inhabit the reserves. So they collect data on Pallas' Cat as well.
Part 2. Winter snow-tracking and density estimation
One of the main goals of the project was to organize snow-tracking and density estimation of Pallas' Cat throughout the Russian part of the range. The main Pallas' Cat habitats are situated in 4 regions of Russia (Altai Republic, Tyva Republic, Buryatia Republic and Chita region). We investigated 2 of them in the frames of this project. They are Altai and Buryatia Republics. These regions were chosen because of:
a) They are less studied for Pallas' Cat number and distribution and it is necessary to clarify hot spots in these regions to operate if it is necessary. Nobody has undertaken special survey of Pallas Cat in Altai and Buryatia Republics.
b) There was special research on Pallas' Cat and other endangered species in Tyva Republic in 2006 (financed by the Ministry of Nature and Natural Resources of Russia). The field-work was conducted by specialists from Tyva Republic (the State Nature Reserve "Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina", Tyva State University, etc.). Our team was taking part in the interviewing local people, in data treatment, and report making (see the supplement 1 below)
c) There was special research on Pallas' Cat in Chita region about 10 years ago. Nowadays the situation with Pallas' Cat in Chita region is monitoring by the specialists from the State Nature Reserve "Daursky" (our collaborator in Chita region). We conducted some joint research (snow-tracking) in spring 2006 and we have understanding to conduct such investigation in future. This work showed that additional research is not urgent in the frames of this project (see the supplement 2 below).
d) The funds were limited
We used several methods to estimate Pallas Cat density:
1) Snow-tracking in different habitats. So we fixed Pallas cat tracks or other traces (urine marks, scats, prey remains) on the routes. At the same time we surveyed other mammals (fox, corsac fox, wolf, tolai hare, mustelids, pikas) and birds to obtain data on Pallas Cat preys', enemies' and competitors' states in order to evaluate the mutual relations between all them, etc.
2) Interviewing local people and others (herdsmen, hunters, rangers, students, scientific researchers, etc.)
3) Checking sites that are reported by local people
4) Analyzing topographic maps, remote sensing data, climate peculiarities, etc.
5) Data treatment in ArcView
We conducted winter censuses in some parts of Altai and Buryatia Republic (see below). We interviewed local people and others. So the data on Pallas' Cat meetings and observations was obtained as well as on its former and modern area.
The data treatment was made using ArcView 3.2. The GIS-project on Pallas' Cat in Russia was made on the base of all data obtained and additional information (topographic maps, remote sensing data, climate peculiarities, relief, settlements, reservoirs, vegetation, land use, protected areas, and others).
Pallas' Cat number in the regions and through all Russian area was estimated (using data on Pallas' cat meetings, climate and landscape features, etc.). The borders of modern area were determined as well as the territories where Pallas' Cat was extinct. The analysis of Pallas' Cat density and distribution, land use allowed to pick out the territories that the most important for Pallas' Cat conservation ("hot spots"). Detailed description of Pallas' Cat area and "hot spots" is in the full report. The protected areas' effectiveness for the Pallas' Cat protection was estimated. The possible threats to Pallas' Cat were determined. The research results are preparing to publish. This work is going in the collaboration with specialists from Altai, Tyva, Buryatia, and Chita region.
Brief field-work description (information about winter expeditions):
1. Altai Republic
The western part of the Pallas Cat area in Russia is in the Altai Republic. Pallas Cat inhabits the Kosh-Agach district throughout the Chuya Steppe and its mountain environs and partly the Ukok Plateau.
Expedition terms: December 12-25, 2006
- Anna Barashkova, team head, NGO Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk
- Ilya Smelansky, NGO Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk
- Sergey Naidenko, Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
- Andrey Tomilenko, NGO Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk
- Alexander Kapin, volunteer, Moscow
Region observed: Altai Republic (valleys of the Ulandryk, Yustyd, Bar-Burgazy, Buraty, Tashantinka rivers)
Briefly about field work and results:
We chose some research sites in Altai Republic to survey. The main site was the Ulandryk valley. Additionally we investigated the neighbor valleys. Data on Pallas' Cat from other parts of area in the republic was obtained by interviewing local people and others.
We put 10 routes in the Ulandryk and through the Chuya Steppe (Chuya intermountain depression) in front of the Sailughem Ridge, and also 2 routes in the mountain massif of the Keregetas and 1 route the watershed of the Yustyd and the Bar-Burgazy rivers. The total routes were about 200 km. Total 450-550 Pallas' Cats were estimated in Altai Republic.
2. Buryatia Republic
Pallas' Cat distribution in Buryatia Republic is relating with patterns of steppe habitats scattered among mountain taiga of the South Buryatia.
Expedition terms: February 15 - 28, 2007
- Anna Barashkova, team head, NGO Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk
- Svetlana Goryunova, NGO Siberian Environmental Center, Novosibirsk
- Andrey Strelnikov, NGO Gebler's Ecological Society, Barnaul
- Maria Suetina, Game Agency, Novoselengisk (Buryatia)
- Ivan Perfiliev, Institute of General and Experimental Biology of Russian Academy of Science, Ulan-Ude (Buryatia)
Region observed: Buryatia Republic (the Selenga, Jida, Khilok, Chikoi and Tugnui rivers)
Briefly about field work and results:
We investigated the main part of steppe territory, which is situated on the south of Buryatia Republic. The census was conducted in several separate Pallas' Cat habitats. Total 16 survey routes of more than 100 kilometers were put: 6 routes in Selenginsky district (Novoselenginsk village surroundings and country between the Chikoi and Khilok rivers), 4 routes in the surroundings of Beloozersk (Jida district), 2 routes in the country between the Selenga and Chikoi rivers (Kyakhta district), 2 routes in the surroundings of Kyakhta village, and 2 routes in the Tugnui valley (Mukhorshibir district). Total 250-350 Pallas' Cats were estimated in Buryatia Republic. Like data from Altai data on Pallas' Cat from other parts of area in the Altai republic was obtained by interviewing local people. In addition the workers of local Game Agency (Novoselenginsk village, FAVPS) granted us by the large set of data. The data on number and distribution of Pallas' Cat in Western Buryatia kindly provided us by Dr. Medvedev (Irkutsk city).
Research data spreading:
1. We represented the research results in scientific conferences concerning wildlife study and conservation.
2. The research results were given to Government Agencies, Academic Scientific Institutes, Universities, Nature Reserves and others.
3. Data collected has been used for creation the booklet on Pallas' Cat (supported by the Eric Hosking Trust). The booklet aims to tell why Pallas' Cat is a rare species and what we do to save it. This booklet as well as the poster with Pallas' Cat pictures will be given to local people in regions where Pallas' Cat live
4. The article concerning conservation Pallas' Cat as well as other endangered species on the Sailughem Ridge (Altai Republic) was published in the Steppe Bulletin (Russia). This bulletin is free distributed to scientific institutions, nature reserves, government institutions concerning nature development and conservation, and others including individuals who are interested in steppe protection.
Supplement 1. Tyva Republic
There was special research on Pallas' Cat and other endangered species in Tyva Republic in 2006 (financed by the Ministry of Nature and Natural Resources of Russia). The field-work (Pallas' Cat's censuses) was conducted by specialists from Tyva Republic (from the State Nature Reserve "Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina", Tyva State University, etc.). Our team was taking part in the interviewing local people and in data treatment and report making.
Extracts from the report to the Ministry of Nature and Natural Resources of Russia
The work was the result of several years' research (of 1999, 2002 and 2006). Data obtained showed that Pallas' Cat population in Tyva changed last 20-25 years:
1. Pallas' Cat area widened. The cat occupied the new territory - the Turano-Uyuk intermountain trough, and penetrated to new biotops - the sands of the Uvs-Nuur depression and to the fallow lands.
2. Pallas' Cat number increased. The researchers estimate 2000-2200 Pallas' Cats in Tyva (against 1500-1700 at the end of 1980-s). The reasons of this they think:
- Habitats are difficult of access so they are most safe and wild
- Tyva is sparsely populated area
- Livestock number was decreased last 10 years and stock-breeding became less well-to-do. So the roamings of herders from place to place decreased, now they pasture almost in flood-lands do not reaching waterless steppe foothills where Pallas' Cats usually live in Tyva
Supplement 2. Chita region
Chita region is one of main Pallas' Cat areas in Russia.
Extracts from research papers of specialists from the State Nature Biosphere Reserve "Daursky" and Chita Scientific Institute of Natural Resources
The main information about Pallas cat of Chita region is collected in the article. The authors have analyzed a big volume of literature and archives and used data obtained during their own research in 1992-1997. They estimated Pallas' Cat number in 2100-3000 individuals in Chita region. They supposed the main threats to Pallas' Cats are hunting, occasional kills by people, shepherds' dogs and fires.
Part 3. Pallas' Cat populations' hot spots identifying
We distinguished the Pallas' Cat habitats that classify the Pallas' Cat habitats by following criteria:
1) Pallas' Cat population has large total number in combination with maximum density and breeds steadily
2) minimum disturbance of steppes as a principal Pallas' Cat habitats.
To do this we participated with local specialists and conservationists (leaning on their knowledge of the regions and the wild life). We checked the proposed areas on the ground during winter snow-tracking work. We picked out some territories in Altai, Tyva, Buryatia Republics and in Chita region. These territories are expected to became of special emphasis in Pallas' Cat conservation planning. We shall give the recommendations to pay attention on them to the corresponding federal and regional institutions.
Part 4. Areas where Pallas' Cat was extinct during last decades
Pallas' Cat number became minimum in Russia to the end of 1970-s. After that it was on the low level for some decades. As data on Pallas' Cat number and distribution before 1970-s was poor we can only suppose that this species was disappeared for example from the foothills of Altai region (near the boundary with Kazakhstan), in Khakassia Republic (the small south part bordering with Tyva Republic). As a whole Pallas' Cat area border in Russia removed to the south (in other words the area reduced on the north). This was observed through all Russian regions where Pallas' Cat lived. The species became less found in Krasnoyarsk region (the small south part bordering with Tyva Republic), in Tunka Mountains (the west of Buryatia Republic), in other north steppe parts of Buryatia. In the Barguzin valley (the most north site where Pallas' Cat live in Russia) last data on Pallas' Cat dated from 1976. The significant Pallas' Cat area reduction was observed in Chita region. Moreover Pallas' Cat area in Russia became fragmented.
The situation has changed since 1990-s. The rural economy in Russia fell into decay and it was to wildlife's good including Pallas' Cat's. Pallas' Cat number became to restore as well as its area. This was observed in main area's parts: in Tyva, Altai, Buryatia, and Chita region. Pallas' Cat was more often found in Tunka Mountains (Buryatia) and in the south of Krasnoyarsk region (the State Biosphere Nature Reserve "Sayano-Shushensky"). Probably such favorable changes had place in other places, e.g. in the Barghuzin valley (see above). It is necessary to conduct special research on the territories, which are on the periphery of Pallas' Cat area.
Part 5. The protected areas sufficiency and effectiveness for the Pallas' Cat protection
We analyzed Russian protected areas sufficiency and effectiveness for the Pallas' Cat protection. Only a few Pallas' Cat area is situated on the federal protected territories.
About 1% of it is situated the state nature reserves: "Altaisky" (Altai Republic), "Sayano-Shushensky" (Krasnoyarsk region), "Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina" (Tyva Republic), "Daursky" and "Sokhodinsky" (Chita Region). The reserves "Ubsuburskaya Kotlovina" and "Daursky" promote Pallas' Cat protection to a great extent.
About 4% of Pallas' Cat area is situated in the national parks: "Tunkinsky" (Buryatia Republic) and "Alkhanai" (Aginsky Buryatsky autonomus region, which will belong to Chita Region soon). About 0,5% of area is situated in federal game reserves: "Altacheisky" (Buryatia Republic) and "Tsasucheisky Bor" (Chita Region).
There are also different kinds of regional protected territories, which cover the part of Pallas' Cat area in Russia but unfortunately they are not effective for Pallas' Cat protection as well as federal game reserves and national parks. The exceptions are the regional protected territories of Buryatia Republic where special government institution stands guard over them (see the part 1).
Part 6. GIS-map on Pallas' Cat number and distribution
We created the spatial database (DB) on Pallas' Cat in Russia (in ArcView 3.2). The database contains the following information:
- Pallas' Cat's area and populations in Russia
- Species number
- Places of meetings Pallas' Cats, their tracks and remains, etc. by local people, scientific researchers and others (obtained in interviewing). This part of DB consists of date of meeting, subject of meeting, name of places, names of respondents.
- Survey sites, routes, survey results (with reports)
- Photos of Pallas' Cats
- Photos from expeditions (our field-work)
- Papers on Pallas' cat
Part 7. Working on building the network of Pallas' Cat's enthusiasts at the local level
We think the most important objective was the creation of the group of people who are interested in Pallas' Cat study and conservation.
We have got into touch with specialists and other persons at the local level. It became clear up that some people as well as organizations are interested in taking part in Pallas' Cat's conservative measures and/or in winter censuses, obtaining data on Pallas' Cat in their regions, rendering other assistance. So they are ready to support our work and to undertake their own acts to study and/or to protect Pallas' Cat. We have such people in all regions now:
- The specialists from the Altai Antiplague Station and Gorno-Altaisk State University
- The members of the Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai
- Private persons (specialists in zoology, etc.), Tyva Republic
- The specialists from the Buryatia FAVPS and the Buryatia Nature Management and Wildlife Conservation State Institution ("Nature of Buryatia")
- The hunting societies of Altai and Buryatia
- The officers of the state nature reserves "Altaisky", "Sayano-Shushensky", "Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina", "Daursky", "Sokhondinsky"
- The local people (herders, etc.)
- The specialists from some scientific institutions
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