Central Asia harbours the largest intact
grasslands worldwide. Large mammals such Saiga antelopes,
Mongolian gazelles, wild camels and many other migratory
animals are still able to roam freely for thousands of kilometres
on their annual journeys. Several of these aridland species
are already included in the Appendices of the Convention
on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
(CMS). Central Asia’s steppes and deserts are one
of the world’s last remaining hotspots of large ungulate
migrations, which are both a wonderful spectacle and a key
structuring force for the ecosystems. However, those aridlands
are among the most underrepresented eco-region in the global
protected area network and urgent action is needed to safeguard
these landscapes while they are still intact.
There are huge investment opportunities
in conservation and sustainable management of the region’s
unique wildlife and its habitat. Central Asia is not only
rich in biodiversity, but also in oil and gas, metals and
coal. With high demand for energy and raw materials in China
and other countries, these resources are being exploited
at an unprecedented pace and scale. Numerous long-distance
and fenced railways and road networks are being built to
provide the infrastructure for the large-scale extraction
of natural resources, stretching all the way from Siberia
to the Caspian Sea and bisecting the habitat of migrating
ungulates. Excessive poaching, unsustainable management
of resources, overgrazing, degradation of habitat and poverty
put further pressure on migrating and nomadic mammals as
well as on water and pasture quality that support local
CMS is already working together with many
Central Asian countries and organizations to halt this trend,
inter alia through the Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)
for the Conservation
of the Saiga Antelope, Bukhara
Deer and Siberian
Crane. In addition, Recommendation
9.1 on Eurasian Aridland Mammals recognizes
that the populations of many Eurasian migratory mammals
are in a profoundly unsatisfactory state of conservation
and that these ecosystems and their unique migration phenomena
are a crucial area of action for CMS.
The Central Asian Initiative: a framework for coherent
Based on this mandate, CMS has strengthened
its engagement in Central Asia to conserve migratory mammals,
their habitats and the vital role they play for intact ecosystem
services. The initiative aims to provide a common framework
to coordinate conservation activities in the region and
coherently address major threats. It is based on 1) activities
focused on single species (including existing MOUs/Action
Plans and those in development); and 2) activities to address
urgent and major threats faced by all or most of the species.
CMS provides the ideal international policy
frameworks to facilitate close collaboration amongst stakeholders.
CMS policies target both the removal of barriers to migration,
the building of transboundary ecological networks (e.g.
Resolution 10.3) and specifically the maintenance of animal
migration in Central Asia as one of the last global “migration
hotspots”. Through the CMS Central Asian Initiative,
the treaty is acting as a catalyst to foster collaboration
between all stakeholders, with particular attention to conservation
beyond borders. The development and effective implementation
of the initiative requires a cross-sector and multi-stakeholder
partnership and dialogue involving all interest groups and
countries in order to build a consensus and coherent strategy
with concrete actions that are jointly implemented and monitored.
The following activities have already been initiated:
Draft Action Plan for Central Eurasian Aridland
The Secretariat has developed a draft Action
Plan, which outlines key problems and priority activities
to conserve migratory mammals and their habitat in Central
Asia. The document was discussed at the 17th meeting of
the Scientific Council and will be further developed and
finalized with all range states and stakeholders.
Download the draft Action Plan here.
Transboundary Conservation of Argali
Following the proposal of Tajikistan and
Kazakhstan, and the support expressed by Kyrgyzstan, the
Argali mountain sheep (Ovis ammon) was listed on
CMS Appendix II at COP10 (20-25 November 2011). The Argali
is a threatened migratory mountain ungulate inhabiting mountains,
steppe valleys and rocky outcrops in Central Asia. Especially
the transboundary populations in the mountainous frontier
regions between Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan suffer from grazing
pressure, habitat loss and excessive poaching that have
caused dramatic declines in many local populations. Coordinated
conservation action among range states to fill knowledge
gaps and sustainably manage those populations is urgently
The listing proposal for argali is available here:
With the Appendix II listing of the species,
range states are encouraged to address threats to argali
coherently, as well as to develop and implement effective
measures to conserve and sustainably manage the species.
Already in March 2012, representatives of governmental agencies,
hunting companies, scientific institutions, NGOs from the
range states and international organizations met at a workshop
of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
on the Island of Vilm to share their experiences on sustainable
management approaches and to discuss ways to ensure the
conservation and sustainable use of Argali through transboundary
cooperation. As a first joint action, the Argali network
was created as an informal platform for knowledge exchange.
See the article in CMS
Bulletin 7/8 2012.
See the website of the Argali
At COP10 Resolution 10.16 was adopted,
which "instructs the Secretariat to develop for consideration
and adoption at COP11 a policy approach to the development,
resourcing and servicing of agreements." Furthermore,
the Resolution lists a set of criteria that need to be taken
into consideration, when making any new proposals in the
meantime, such as the “substantiation of the case
for a new instrument, based on an analysis of needs and
gaps in current conservation provisions”.
Taking these considerations into account,
the CMS Secretariat in close collaboration, and with funding
from the German Government through the GIZ Regional Programme
on Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in Central Asia,
commissioned a study to review existing initiatives and
conservation activities for argali in Central Asia in order
to assess the current needs and gaps in conservation and
management of the species; as well as to analyses and specify
the role CMS can play in this regard. The report analyzes
ways to progress Argali conservation and discusses the potential
benefits and challenges of developing a new instrument for
the conservation of argali under the aegis of CMS.
The full report is available here
The Executive Summary is available here
and in Russian here.
Addressing urgent threats: Mining and barriers
Large infrastructure projects such as
roads, railways, mining sites, pipelines and fences can
have detrimental effects on migratory gazelles, Wild Asses
and Saiga Antelopes, causing not only habitat fragmentation
but also direct mortality. This is the result of a recent
study from WWF Mongolia, which analyses the barrier effect
of infrastructure development in Mongolia on migratory ungulates.
The study was commissioned by the UNEP/CMS Secretariat with
funding from the Principality of Monaco, and was discussed
at the 17th meeting of the Scientific Council in Bergen
(17/18 November 2011).
CMS has identified barriers to migration
as a key priority for the conservation of migratory species.
In Central Asia and Mongolia in particular, the number of
planned and constructed large infrastructure projects increased
rapidly over the last years, causing serious threats to
major migratory ungulates such as Goitered and Mongolian
Gazelles, Asiatic Wild Asses, wild camels and Saiga Antelopes.
Negative effects include habitat fragmentation and barriers
to migration routes, genetic isolation and splitting of
population as well as direct mortality when animals run
into trucks or die hanging in wired fences.
The Mongolian case study serves as the
starting point to initiate further concise action to address
the issue of barriers to the migration of terrestrial mammals.
Dependent on the availability of funding, this will include
stakeholder workshops and dialogues as well as the development
of guidelines to reduce the negative effects of similar
types of infrastructure projects in Mongolia and Central
Asia, but also worldwide.
For further information see the research report: Barriers
to Migration – Analyzing the Effects of Infrastructure
on Migratory Terrestrial Mammals in Mongolia, available
on the CMS
Due to the increasing concerns about the
development of mining operations and related infrastructure
construction in Central Asia (and in particular Mongolia),
the CMS Secretariat in cooperation with the German Federal
Ministry for the Environment, the Mongolian Ministry for
Environment and Green Development and the German Nature
Conservation Agency jointly organized a workshop in June
2013 on conflicts between the mining industry and migratory
species. The meeting brought together representatives of
the Governments of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and
Germany, the CMS, several scientific institutions and non-governmental
organizations, as well as a panel of experts. The aim of
this workshop was to assess the level and scope of existing
and planned infrastructure development, their impact on
migratory ungulates, and to develop solutions to mitigate
The participants signed a declaration of
intent and agreed on an action plan consisting in a list
of 18 prioritized solutions and activities to be implemented
by different stakeholders. A second workshop is to take
place in late 2014.
The Press Release of 24 June 2013 is available
Die deutsche Pressemitteilung finden Sie hier.
Further news about the Workshop (in German)
can be found here.
The Declaration and Action Plan can be
Furthermore, in cooperation and with funding
from the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and Flora &
Fauna International (FFI), the Secretariat initiated a study
to investigate the situation and the anticipated effects
of infrastructure developments on Saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan,
where a fence along the Kazakh-Uzbek border as well as two
new railroads through Saiga habitat are being constructed.
The report develops a set of recommendations for consideration
by the Kazakh authorities. However, the solutions provided
in the report are also applicable to other countries and
species where similar developments take place.
The report “Saiga Crossing Options.
Guidelines and Recommendations to Mitigate Barrier Effects
of Border Fencing and Railroad Corridors on Saiga Antelope
in Kazakhstan” by Kirk Olson can be downloaded here.
There is also a Russian version available.
CMS Side Event highlights steppes
and deserts of Eurasia as a refuge for migratory species
In order to raise the profile of Eurasian
aridlands and to highlight their importance for migratory
species, CMS hosted a side event at the tenth meeting of
the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity (CBD) on 27 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. Under
the title "Steppes and Deserts of Eurasia: A Refuge
for Migratory Species", CMS representatives and a panel
of experts highlighted the threats faced by migratory species
in Eurasia, such as the Saiga antelopes and other mammals,
but also the Siberian cranes, waterbirds and raptors. The
experts outlined current activities and avenues for future
For an overview of the discussions at the
side event please see: http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/cop10/enbots/27octe.html
The presentations held at the side event
are available for download:
Melanie Virtue (CMS Secretariat):
and Deserts of Eurasia: A Refuge for Migratory Species
Crawford Prentice (International Crane
of Flyway Wetlands for Biodiversity in Eurasian Steppes
Simba Chan (BirdLife International):
Eurasian Steppe and Desert
Marceil Yeater (CITES):
Thomas Tennhardt (Nature and Biodiversity Union, NABU):
and deserts of Eurasia: Antelopes, birds and CITES
Central Asia Programme - Implementing the CMS