As every year, so in 2010 the saigas in Kazakhstan have been counted by an aerial census. A team from the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) working for the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative (ADCI) has again taken part in the census of the Betpak-Dala population of saiga in Central Kazakhstan. Our team had the role of a technical advisor for the census, actually having quite a lot of influence on the process of the census in this year, caring for the planning, organisation and evaluation of every day's survey flight. Support has been provided by an international expert (Howard Frederick), who has a lot of experience with wildlife surveys in Africa.
We have been able to further improve last year's methodology. It has become more systematical, increasing the quality of the census result. With the large amount of data we have collected, we can develop recommendations for changes of the official census method and hopefully apply a new method already next year.
A specialty of the census 2010 was that we had a large amount of flight hours for the census of the Betpak-Dala population, because the ADCI added some hours (financed by GTZ) in order to experiment with the method. We were also able to count in areas, where we haven't been last year, verifying rumors about big amounts of saigas there.
Some figures for this year's census:
+ until the plane left, the flight distance of the census was more than 17000 km
+ this is more than 110 flight hours between 05th April and 26th April
+ more than 13000 saigas have been visually observed during this period
+ this indicates a population growth (details later)
The constant engagement for the saiga census in the Betpak-Dala has not only been supported by the partners of the ADCI, but is mainly possible due to a project financed by the GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit) focusing on wildlife management. Further support has been obtained by a project from GEF/UNDP on steppe conservation and management and the Centre for international migration and development (CIM).
A new development in this year was that ACBK has been invited for the first time to take part in the census of the Ustiurt and Ural population of saiga in order to introduce the changed method as used for Betpak-Dala. One ADCI team member has been there as census expert and assured that a systematical way of counting saigas has been applied for the first time for these two populations. Furthermore, we have obtained accurate overview of the distribution of saiga at the time of the census.
ACBK is now going to support the Institute of Zoology with the analysis of the data as done last year, aiming to apply different analysis methods this time in order to improve the final result.
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