The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning Conservation and Restoration of the Bukhara Deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus) was developed under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in collaboration with the Central Asia Programme of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Russia. It became effective on 16 May 2002 and will remain open for signature indefinitely.
The MOU area covers four Range States in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. These countries together with three cooperating international organisations (WWF, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) and CMS), have signed the MOU. At the Meeting of Signatories in November 2011, Afghanistan was recognized as an additional range state of Bukhara deer and invited to sign the MOU.
The species is threatened by a number of human threats. Core habitat of Bukhara deer are the riparian forests (tugai forests) in the basins of major rivers in Central Asia. Artificial regulation of the water regime, habitat destruction and illegal hunting are the main reasons for the deer’s alarming decline in numbers. Only a few hundred animals remained in 2002, scattered in a few small populations in limited areas. Historically the species' area of distribution included the river valleys of Amudaria and Syrdaria and their river catchments. Since the inception of the MOU, Bukhara deer populations in the region have steadily recovered.
The Bukhara Deer Action Plan is the main tool for conservation activities under the MOU. The plan provides for the restoration of the range and number of the Bukhara Deer in suitable habitats, the development of a transboundary network of protected areas, legal protection measures and enhanced international cooperation. The Action Plan can be accessed under “Documents”.
The MOU provides an intergovernmental framework for governments, scientists and other stakeholders to monitor and coordinate ongoing conservation efforts.
A range of activities have been carried out to implement the Action Plan. The WWF Central Asia Programme has been working to protect and support all existing natural populations of Bukhara Deer and implemented three projects to reintroduce the Bukhara Deer in its historical habitats of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Work has also included the restoration of Bukhara Deer habitats in Tigrovaja balka, Tajikistan, with funding from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Those efforts were supported by the Cervid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Minnesota Zoo in particular.
A plan to develop a system of protected areas got its start with the Econet Central Asia project. The project is a joint effort of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and WWF. Much more work and funding is however still needed to develop a transboundary network of protected areas in riparian forests and to effectively address environmental degradation along several rivers in Central Asia.
Nonetheless, the coordinated, systematic efforts of governments and non-governmental groups to save the Bukhara Deer have already started showing significant results. The populations in all range countries have stabilized, and have even begun to grow. The global population of this rare deer in the wild was estimated at about 1,600 animals in autumn 2010 versus 350-450 animals in 2002 when the MOU was signed. Deer were also reintroduced in three sites of the former range (Zarafshan, Syrdaria and Ily). In addition, many people living in Central Asia now recognize the Bukhara Deer as a national treasure of global importance.