First month in the wild: from pens – to tugai
The last Bukhara deer of Kazakhstan's Syrdaria riparian forests was killed in 1962. After almost half a century in May 2009 first deer went into the wild again.
A special research conducted by the Institute of zoology of the Kazakhstan’s Academy of Sciences showed that riparian forests of the Syrdarya river valley close to Turkestan city form the most appropriate territory for the reintroduction. In 2000 WWF started conservation and restoration of the Bukhara deer in its natural habitats. This initiative received very positive response from the Turkestan district and South Kazakhstan region administration – they suggested creating a special reserve on this territory to ensure the necessary level of protection.
“It was planned to have enough animals for the release in the tugai by 2005. But the flood on the Syrdarya in 2005 threatened to spread broadly and an order was made for the evacuation of people and… deer. A zoo agreed to provide them with a refuge”, says Professor Tatyana Bragina, WWF Project Coordinator for the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile a special embankment was built in the pen in order to exclude the risks for the deer in case of a repeated flood. In more than a year the animals returned to their enclosures - but they couldn’t be released immediately – the adaptation process needed to be started again.
By 2007 deer livestock increased again. The reintroduction works of the Bukhara deer into the tugai forests of the Syrdarya started to attract more attention of the local and republican authorities; there have been budget funds for the forage and care of animals.
In 2008-2009, there were already more than 20 deer in the enclosures – they started to get too crowded. “This spring is particularly favorable for animals – abundant rains led to a great vegetation development. In the pen, despite the rain, the vegetation almost doesn’t grow – the pressure of the inhabiting animals is too high. And around there is a vast green jungle. So it was decided to release the animals now, when the deer can feel much better in the wild than in pens”, says Dr. Olga Pereladova, WWF Central Asian Programme Director.
In order to release the animals, part of the fence was removed from the side of the pen close to green tugai and the forage was put close to the border – inside and outside the enclosure. On May 26 2009, 10 deer were released: a stag with the “harem” of 4 females, young males 1-2 years old and a newborn female.
“However this doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped patronizing the deer”, says A. Umaraliev, Head of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Administration of Thouth-Kazakhsatn Oblas. “Feeding the deer in the surroundings of the pen will be continued to help the animals get used to the wild life, new territory and change in the diet”. Deer are observed on a regular basis.