Diets and habitat selection of takhi and red deer in Hustai National Park, Mongolia

Submitted by editor on 22 February 2021.

By Seiki Takatsuki

In 2003, I saw takhi, or Przewarski horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), in Mongolia for the first time in my life. I was studying migration of Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) with Mongolian researchers. I returned to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, after field work, and dropped to Hustai National Park for sight-seeing. That is when I saw a mother-infant pair. I thought “This foal was born and started its life here. But this place is not its true home”. Takhi went extinct in Mongolia in the 1960s. Fortunately, however, some takhi were grown in European zoos. Mr and Mrs Bouman, a Dutch couple, started a project to return them to Mongolia, and they successfully introduced 16 takhi to Hustai National Park. The population steadily increased.

 

I visited this part several times after then since it was close to Ulaanbaatar. I was informed that there also lived red deer (Cervus elaphus). Since I had been studying the ecology of sika deer (Cervus nippon), I became interested in the relations between takhi and red deer, and wanted to study them. The restoration of the takhi population seemed successful.

In this paper, we show that takhi fed exclusively on grasses and stayed in the steppe, whereas red deer fed on both grasses and browsed and stayed in the forest. We also found that the browsing effects of red deer on the birch forest was heavy. The birch forests were dying by dryness related to global warming. If this will continue, the red deer population will face difficulties to live in the park. This seems to mean that Hustai National Park was one of a rare case to successfully restore a takhi population, but in terms of ecosystem conservation, problems remain.

           

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