Border Fence Pamir © Aziz Ali

Large infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, mining sites, pipelines and fences can have detrimental effects on migratory ungulates, causing not only habitat fragmentation but also direct mortality. This is the result of a study from WWF Mongolia, which analysed 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.

For further information see the research report: Barriers to Migration. Analyzing the Effects of Infrastructure on Migratory Mammals in Mongolia

Mongolian Gazelle © Kiriliyk

The Mongolian case study served as the starting point to initiate further concise action to address the issue of barriers to the migration of terrestrial mammals. 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 to address conflicts between the mining industry and migratory species. The meeting brought together representatives of the Governments of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Germany, the CMS, and several scientific institutions and non-governmental organizations. The aim of the 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 those impacts.

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.

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.

See here the report by Kirk Olson: Saiga Crossing Options. Guidelines and Recommendations to Mitigate Barrier Effects of Border Fencing and Railroad Corridors on Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan.