Reintroduction of kulan to the central steppe of Kazakhstan

Timeframe: 2016 – 2020
Country/Region: Kazakhstan, Asia
Partner: NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research)

Temperate grasslands are considered the most altered and endangered biome on the planet, and are home to a unique assemblage of charismatic mammals, many of which are migratory and endangered. In the past, large herds of migratory wild asses, also known as kulan, roamed the Eurasian Steppes. Overhunting and habitat conversion has decimated their populations and nowadays they have become confined to <3% of their former global distribution range. The situation is particularly critical for the Central Asian subspecies (E.h. kulan and E.h. onager).

With the breakdown of the Soviet system the socio-economic situation of Central Asian countries changed dramatically. In Kazakhstan large parts of the central steppe became almost devoid of people and livestock. This situation has created an almost unique chance for landscape-level biodiversity conservation and species recovery. It is in this framework that the kulan reintroduction in the Kazakh central steppe implemented by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research aims at

  • doubling the range of kulan in Central Asia
  • significantly increasing the global population
  • providing a catalyst for kulan conservation actions in the region

This will hopefully pave the way for the conservation and restoration of the full steppe fauna of central Kazakhstan, including preparing for Przewalski’s horse reintroduction and helping conserve the largest saiga antelope range.