Falcons reduce number of pests for herders

A raptor breeding project by Environmental Agency - Abu Dhabi has saved a way of life for nomadic Mongolian farmers.
Tamir Jamsran with his three-month-old baby Tenn Tamir and relatives from the city outside his ger. Anna Zacharias / The National
Tamir Jamsran with his three-month-old baby Tenn Tamir and relatives from the city outside his ger. Anna Zacharias / The National

BAYAN SOUM // Life was made miserable by the Brandt's vole in the Bayan soum district.

Although only 15 centimetres in length, the rodent wreaked havoc on herders by burrowing through the steppe grasslands where livestock grazed.

The Bayan soum municipality turned to pesticides, a costly option for a community dependent on land.

A solution presented itself in 2006 when 250 artificial nests were erected on the steppe for saker falcons, buzzards, kestrels and ravens as part of a raptor breeding project involving Environmental Agency - Abu Dhabi.

Studies of five nests show the falcons each eat 24 voles a day.

"Before the project this was the worst area for the rodents," says Guasendorg, the soum (district) leader. "The project has been here for the last five years and since this time the pasture has grown because the rodent population is very good.

"Before we used pesticides; now we will never use them again."

Livestock is life in Bayan soum. Over half of the soum's 650 families live in the countryside and breed cows, camels, horses, goats and sheep.

It is a typical demographic for Mongolia, where 40 per cent of the population are nomadic. The soum's 1,011 herders live in gers made from sheep's wool, and eat mutton and dairy products from their herd.

Most earn an income with the sale of cashmere wool, and from meat and home-made dairy products.

Livestock also attract the Brandt's vole, which prefers the short grass where animals graze. Herders regard the vole as a threat to their livelihood.

"It is a very old culture, the nomadic culture," says Guasendorg, who like many Mongolians uses one name.

Thanks to the artificial nests project, the rodent population has been stable for the past three years.

"Of course we want more raptors because they will keep benefiting nature, and if the pasture is good it's good for the nomadic herders."

The soum saved on pesticides, which cost up to 10 million tugrik (Dh29,750) a year.

A trapper's permit costs 14.5m tugrik, of which the province receives a portion. Last year's sale of three birds from the soum made 3.5m tugrik.

Now the project has expanded to an area of 10,000 square kilometres, its success will depend on the support of local soum rangers and herders.

"All the people here are rangers," Guasendorg says.

"All people here watch the nature. Here, everybody knows about saker. The falcon is very strong bird, people like it."

 

azacharias@thenational.ae

Published: August 28, 2011 04:00 AM

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