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First assessment of the population structure of the Asiatic wild ass in Mongolia

  • D. Lkhagvasuren
  • N. Batsaikhan
  • W. F. Fagan
  • E. C. Ghandakly
  • P. Kaczensky
  • T. Müller
  • R. Samiya
  • R. Schafberg
  • A. Stubbe
  • M. Stubbe
  • H. Ansorge
Original Article

Abstract

The Mongolian Gobi is the most important stronghold of the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus), housing > 75% of the remaining global population. However, even in this remote refuge, poaching and changes in land use are challenging the species’ conservation. Whereas progress has been made in monitoring population size, little data are available on population structure and dynamics. To fill this gap, we determined the age and sex of 440 skulls collected in two regions of the Mongolian Gobi. Foals and yearlings were underrepresented in our skull sample with 3 and 7.3% only, but the rest of the age pyramid was well balanced. The mean age was 7.7 years, the maximum age 29 years, and the sex ratio was not different from even. Mortality risk analysis revealed low annual mortality rates of about 15% in the most productive age classes of 5–10 years, followed by a slow increase with age until about 17 years and a likely faster increase thereafter. As the large majority of carcasses suggested a poaching-related mortality which appears random, our dataset provides the first insight into the structure of the largest remaining Asiatic wild ass population and can be used as a benchmark for future monitoring and population viability modeling.

Keywords

Asiatic wild ass Equus hemionus Mongolian Gobi Poaching Age structure Sex ratio Mortality rate Survivorship model 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to Margit Hanelt (Görlitz), Diana Jeschke (Görlitz), and Roland Müller (Halle) for preparing and keeping all the wild ass skulls. Also, this research is part of the Mongolian-German Biological Expeditions since 1962, No. 311 and all the contribution by the researchers of the expeditions are greatly acknowledged. This research is supported by German Academic Exchange service (DAAD) for their two-year sandwich-model scholarship (A/07/80408) and by the National University of Mongolia as a young scientists’ grant (P2017-2419).

Thomas Mueller was funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation

Supplementary material

10344_2017_1162_MOESM1_ESM.doc (46 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 46 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Lkhagvasuren
    • 1
  • N. Batsaikhan
    • 1
  • W. F. Fagan
    • 2
  • E. C. Ghandakly
    • 2
  • P. Kaczensky
    • 3
    • 4
  • T. Müller
    • 5
  • R. Samiya
    • 1
  • R. Schafberg
    • 6
  • A. Stubbe
    • 7
  • M. Stubbe
    • 7
  • H. Ansorge
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Biology, School of Arts and SciencesNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine ViennaViennaAustria
  4. 4.Norwegian Institute of Nature ResearchTrondheimNorway
  5. 5.Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Department of Biological Sciences, Goethe-University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  6. 6.Museum of Domesticated Animals “Julius Kühn”Martin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  7. 7.Institute of ZoologyMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany
  8. 8.Senckenberg Museum of Natural History GörlitzGörlitzGermany

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