Ecologists to take special care of Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s natives

Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry develops plan for preserving Belarusian aurochs

By Tatiana Stepanova

The plan envisages the formation of a genetically sustainable robust population for the Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s aurochs, guaranteeing their preservation as an animal species. The document aims at the further growth and stabilisation of their population in the Pushcha, at a level to guarantee their long-term survival: 1,500 animals.

The plan has two stages of realisation, with the first running until 2015. It aims to manage the Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s auroch population, while preserving seven micro-populations of Belarusian aurochs (Belovezhskaya, Borisovsko-Berezinskaya, Nalibokskaya, Polesskaya, Osipovichskaya, Ozerskaya and Ozeranskaya) and overseeing the sustainable use of their resources. Inventories are to be kept of hunting sites, aiming to detect promising areas for the formation of new micro-populations of these rare animals.

Jointly with ecologists, scientists plan to develop schemes for the aurochs’ resettlement, creating at least five new man-regulated micro-populations. A package of veterinary-sanitary measures is being prepared, overseeing the improvement of the animals’ living conditions. Additionally, technologies are to be elaborated for the aurochs’ adaptation to their new micro-populations, ensuring their optimal, ecologically friendly, livestock structure.

A scientific-selection centre is to be set up at the Naliboksky Republican Landscape Reserve, studying Belarusian aurochs’ preservation and improvements to their population. Ecologists plan to establish a single database for Belovezhskaya Pushcha aurochs — including information on their number, distribution and micro-populations.

The second stage is to cover the period from 2016 to 2030, focusing on preparing genetic passports for aurochs. Proposals will be prepared to guide forestry users and other legal entities operating on the territories where aurochs live. These will ensure the sustainable growth of animals’ micro-populations, while applying rational use of their resources.

Belarus began to breed aurochs in 1946-1947 at its Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. Seven micro-populations (numbering a total of 983 animals) are now registered, with the Park enjoying the largest of them. Over 64 years, their number has risen 40-fold, reaching 415 by early 2011. Adult animals form over half of the herds. Against the recommended number of 220-250 animals for the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, its micro-population fell in the late 1980s (due to natural resources). Over the next twenty years, a few more new aurochs were registered, although disease became more common. At present, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha enjoys a stable auroch micro-population.

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