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18 May, 2008 00:36

Watch out for poachers! Gazelles face new hazard

Driven by thirst, thousands of gazelles have been leaving the plains of Mongolia and migrating north to Russia's lakes. Russian frontier guards have removed part of the border fence with Mongolia to allow the animals safe passage. Hundreds had died earlie

Experts at Russia's Daursky reserve were the first to sound the alarm.
“It's a rare species. We had to stop these animals dying. During a similar migration last winter we lost thousands. We've explained it to the border guards and they've agreed to take down about fivkilometres of fencing along the frontier to let the animals through. Now we have to protect them from poachers,” says Nikolay Perevozchikov from the Daursky Nature Reserve.

In the last two days, more than 7,000 gazelles have crossed the border, with 80,000 more thought to be on their way. Experts say the migration will last until calving time, so it could take up to four weeks.

Several kilometres of Russia's border with Mongolia will remain unfenced until the end of the migration, but border guards say they’ll maintain frontier security.

Over the last two weeks, 300 animals have died from injuries and thirst. Their carcasses have been burned to prevent the spread of any infection. Now, thanks to funding from the local authorities, as well as Russia's environmental watchdog and the WWF, zoologists say the lives of thousands of other gazelles in the area are no longer in danger from the drought.