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20 May, 2008 07:12

Mongolian drought may save Russian gazelles

Border guards have been working non-stop to help thousands of trapped gazelles cross into Russia from Mongolia. Severe drought has forced the animals to migrate north. Wildlife enthusiasts are hopeful the influx will be a boost to Russia’s dying Gazelle p

Fences have been removed to allow the animals to use water to cross to safety.

“One day a horde of gazelles came to our border. This field was covered with them. I've never seen these animals before, they are very beautiful, but because of them we have to work day and night, we even have to eat here as we can't leave,” Dmitry Chachalin, frontier guard, said.

About 10,000 have passed the border freely over the last five days. Dmitry says he was just doing his job. The 24-year old lieutenant is unaware of the ecological implications for Russia of his actions.

About 150 years ago, antelopes disappeared in Russia because of barbaric, uncontrolled hunting.

But the influx currently under way, together with the migration of 2001, could mean a renaissance for gazelles in Russia.

Experts at the Daursky Nature Reserve say the peak of the migration has already passed.

“After a short spell of rain it's become easier for the animals. Thousand may eventually return to Mongolia. But 15,000 or 20,000 are still at the border and they'll move to Russia soon, and will calve here and stay here for ages,” Vadim Kirilyuk from the Daursky Nature Reserve said.