The Ring of Darhad:
Wildlife Survey of the Darhad Region of Mongolia.
F. McCarthy*, G. Treinish*, R. Watters*, J. Wilmot*, J. Harris*, J. Copeland†, L. Craighead†, C. Montagne†; *Field Team; †Science Advisory Board
The Darhad region of Mongolia represents one of the world’s least known regions when it comes to wildlife species. The Mongolian government has called for surveys of all of Mongolia’s wildlife species, but faces challenges to conducting research on elusive and difficult-to-study species such as wolverine.
In March, 2013 our team will attempt a circumnavigation of the Darhad region to conduct a systematic survey the region’s wildlife, with the specific goal of gathering DNA evidence of wolverines. The team’s overarching goal is collection of wolverine DNA to contribute to the existing database of Mongolian wolverine genetic samples. The team will also locate sites for further, more in-depth study of the region’s wolverine population, so that Mongolian scientists and wolverine biologists associated with the Wolverine Foundation (TWF) and the Mongolian Wildlife and Climate Change Project (MWCCP) can learn more about the species in Mongolia.
Wolverine researchers Rebecca Watters, Jason Wilmot and Jeff Copeland have conducted interview surveys, habitat assessments, and DNA sample collection from pelts during summer expeditions in wolverine habitat across Mongolia. Based on this efforts, we know that a population of wolverines exists in the Darhad region, but understanding the population dynamics, human threat levels, and the ecology of the species in this region will be critical as wolverines begin to feel the effects of climate change due to diminishing suitable habitat. To better understand how climate change affects wolverines, we need data on demographics – how wolverines are reproducing and dispersing. Understanding demographics requires much more intensive study, usually with radio collars, camera stations, and further genetic analysis. This expedition will help find places to put camera stations for further study. Ultimately, the scientists from the MWCCP hope that this expedition will contribute baseline information to the ongoing effort to create a monitoring and conservation plan for wolverines in Mongolia.
We anticipate covering a route of approximately 400 miles as we travel through what scientific modeling suggests is the most significant block of wolverine habitat in Mongolia. The route will circumnavigate the Darhad valley and travel through the Sayan and Horidol Sardag mountain ranges.
Throughout the journey we will identify and count wildlife tracks, note the size and composition of any wildlife groups we come across including sex and number of young present. We will record rough perpendicular distance to animals we see, GPS mark tracks, wildlife, and other wildlife signs. We will note predator kills, and, in the case of male argali and ibex, the number of horn rings for age.
Species of interest: