UNEP/CMS Secretariat: International Action Plan Aims at Reducing Barriers to Migratory Wildlife in Central Asia

Saiga Antelopes, Wild Camels, Mongolian Gazelles and Asiatic Wild Asses (Khulan) need to be able to roam freely across the unique open plains in Central Asia. At a conference in Vilm, Germany, government officials from Germany, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, Bonn Convention) and a panel of experts have adopted an action plan to mitigate the impacts on migratory wildlife of the

rapidly growing infrastructure development due to mining activities.

CMS Executive Secretary Dr. Bradnee Chambers said: “This action plan aims to combine use of natural resources with the preservation of this unique ecological network, which is vital for the long-term survival of migratory wildlife.”

Central Asia has the largest intact and interconnected steppe and grassland ecosystems worldwide. It is also known as the “Serengeti of Asia” for the long-distance mass migrations and nomadic movements of Mongolian Gazelles, Khulan and Saiga Antelopes. However, legal and illegal mining as well as large-scale infrastructure projects, particularly in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, can have serious negative impacts. They bisect these ecosystems and restrict the migrations of ungulates and other wildlife to the best pastures, which are vital to their survival. Fences, roads and railways do not only constrain the movements of the animals, but also cause direct mortality. According to CMS Recommendation 9.1. on “Central Eurasian Aridland Mammals” and CMS Resolution 10.3. on “The Role of Ecological Networks in the Conservation of Migratory Species”, the CMS works to coordinate activities to conserve this unique ecological network and its endangered migratory species in the Central Asian steppes.
Targeted measures outlined in the action plan aim to reduce conflicts between the mining and transport industry and migratory ungulates. Immediate measures that can be implemented relatively quickly are wildlife-friendly fences in places where they are absolutely necessary (e.g. along international borders) as well as the complete removal of fences along railways. Scientists will investigate to which extent wild animals will use these and other mitigation measures such as “green bridges” over and underneath roads and railways or temporary traffic bans on roads. The findings will then be considered in the further development of new infrastructure. Early planning of transport infrastructure, including a national mitigation and offset strategy, involving all stakeholders, are equally important. Anti-poaching, inter-ministerial coordination and capacity building for effectiveimplementation of environmental le gislation are also needed to reduce the pressure on the species. The aim is to reconcile the extractive industries operations and infrastructure development with the conservation of biodiversity in Central Asia.
The conference is a joint initiative of CMS, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the Mongolian Ministry of Environment and Green Development and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) in Germany. The dialogue between all parties involved aims to close the gap between knowledge and practice. The German Government has signed bilateral partnerships regarding the exploitation of raw materials from Mongolia (2011) and Kazakhstan (2012). This includes cooperation with the two countries, to ensure an environmentally and socially sustainable development.