1998 Volume 23 Issue 1 Pages 63-78
The grassland ecosystem of Mongolia and adjacent areas of Russia and northeastern China is an important component of the natural ecosystems of Eastern Asia. This grassland ecosystem is unique in that it has been utilized for grazing for a long period of time without deterioration. The Mongolian gazelle, Procapra gutturosa, an important species occurring in this ecosystem, used to be abundant and widely distributed, however, populations have decreased in recent decades and the distribution of the species has become greatly reduced. The contraction of its range began in the early years of the 20th century in China, during the 1970s in Russia, where they completely disappeared, and after the 1950s in Mongolia where the majority of the population now remains. The total population has decreased from about 1.5 million heads in the 1940s to 300,000-500,000 at present. In Mongolia, their range spanned about 780,000 km2 in the 1950s, but this has contracted to only 170,000 km2 at present. Mongolian gazelles inhabit grasslands and eat mainly grasses such as Stipa spp. and Aneurolepidium chinense. During summer they occur in small groups of 20-30 individuals, and in winter usually of 100-120 individuals, although they sometimes gather into herds of several thousands during periods of snow. They migrate seasonally, but their routes and the distances travelled are unclear. Their reproductive capacity is high with very high pregnancy rates ranging from 80% to 100% among females older than 1.5 years. The present problems facing the population and the future needs for conservation are discussed with the main conclusion being that international cooperation for the establishment of reserves is urgently required.
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