Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bukhara deer still in Danger

Bukhara deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus)

Also known as (Bukhara Deer or Bactrian Wapiti) lives in West Turkestan and adjacent areas in Northern Afghanistan to the west of the Tianshan Mountains. The species is endemic to Central Asia.

The Bukhara deer is usually ashy-gray with yellowish sheen, and a grayish white rump patch. It lives in Central Asia's riparian forests, which are characterized by thickets of trees and grassy clearings interspersed with wetlands. These riperian forests, known as "tugai," are located on the floodplains of major rivers Amudarya, Syrdarya and Zerafshan. Whilst they are dependent on the lowland riparian corridors for food and shelter they do not migrate but may disperse into adjacent desert areas at night or at times of cooler temperatures.

Aside from man, the wolf is probably the most dangerous of predators that most Central Asian Red Deer encounter. Occasionally, Brown Bear and Asiatic Black Bear will prey on these deer as well. Other possible predators are dholes and snow leopards. Eurasian Lynx and wild boars sometimes prey on the calves. In the past they were also hunted by the now extinct Caspian Tiger.

However it is their dwindelling habitat that poses one of the greatest risks. Overgrazing, agriculture, and illegal logging have contributed significantly to the destruction of the tugai. This problem is particularly acute along the Amudarya River in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, where many forest areas have been cleared. On the Amu Darya it is likely that only 10 percent of riparian forests remain and many of these forest strips are very narrow.

The population diminished most drastically after the Central Asian states gained independence and by 1999 there were not more than 400 Bukhara deer. However, since then, environmental organizations have taken steps to save the species bringing Bukhara deer back to the places which it had once inhabited. As a result by 2006 there were about 1000 deer in Central Asia.

The population today is now estimated to be up above this level but poaching is rife (the sale of deer game meat is still occuring in Karakalpakstan) and their habitat remains highly threatened by competition with livestock, and degradation of vegetation. The Bukhara deer are still in danger of extinction and require continued protection and need to be reintroduced into larger areas if they are going to be around for our grandchildren.

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