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Don't put all your eggs in 1 basket -- or all your horses on 1 pasture
Date:12/29/2011

ound to use three different winter ranges, two in the east and one in the west. Losses averaged 60% but mainly affected the groups wintering in the east, with the group in the west suffering almost no mortalities. As spatial use of Przewalski's horses is extremely conservative, groups did not attempt to venture beyond their known home ranges. In contrast, Asiatic wild asses seem to have suffered few losses. These animals roam over much larger areas than Przewalski's horses and are not restricted to any particular wintering areas. Petra Kaczensky, the first author on the PLoS paper, says that "wild asses were obviously able to outrun the worst of the dzud by moving west. The long-distance movements and shifts in range highlight how important it is to manage migratory or nomadic species on a landscape level, including multi-use areas outside of protected areas. Fragmentation of their range will reduce their flexibility and can easily result in local population crashes such as the one seen for the Przewalski's horses."

The severe effect of this localized catastrophic event was largely due to the small size and limited range of the present-day Przewalski's horse population. A large and continuous population would be much more robust as it could counteract local population lows or extinctions via re-colonization. The dzud winter of 2009/2010 is a textbook example of how vulnerable small and spatially confined populations are in an environment prone to fluctuations and catastrophes. Losses of this magnitude are difficult to model or predict. As long as populations remain small and spatially confined, their survival cannot be guaranteed, necessitating a long term conservation commitment to ensure the species' future. "The winter disaster really highlighted how dangerous it is to have all our eggs in one basket or in this case all the horses on a single pasture," says Petra Kaczensky. "The national strategy for Przewalski's horse conservation in Mongolia should con
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Contact: Petra Kaczensky
petra.kaczensky@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-148-909-15181
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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