About the antelope in a gas mask and pink salt lakes

    This is a saga, that is, a salt lake. He has a pink color due to the small crustaceans of Artemia salina. These are the same devils that flamingos eat, and from this they turn pink. And here the whole saga turned pink. Because no one except bacteria and, in fact, Artemia survives in such a wild concentration of salt.

    This is used by saigas. They already have enough salt in the body for life, so they come to lick salt marshes. And then they realize that there are no insects above these lakes, and remain to sleep. Because in the heat of +41 it’s cool there, and still no one bites.

    Actually, I want to tell you about saigas and where these funny animals live. But we will begin with the mathematical model of the paradox about why saigas become smaller if we begin to destroy their natural enemies - wolves.

    Hell nose is needed to clean the air. With it, they yell, and with the help of it, they presumably determine the direction from which the moist air comes, which is very important if you need to run 100 kilometers before the rain.

    Less Wolves Less Saigas Model

    The story began in the reserve "Kaluga Zaseki", where in the very middle of the forest there is a scientific village. There, Russian scientist Jose Hernandez Blanco, specializing in wolves, drew schemes on the snow with a stick and explained what was the matter. So, in the midst of a fierce Russian winter, I found out where to go to look at saigas. And he could not resist, because he had never seen them, although he was born in Astrakhan. More precisely, I saw only in the museum.

    So the introduction:

    1. It is very important for a predator to remain whole and fully functional. A decrease in its effectiveness by several percent due to lameness is the inability to fully hunt. Therefore, predators avoid collisions where possible. The main ways to injure them is to attack the prey and fight for territory with competitors. The first is leveled by skill and luck, the second - by a bunch of evolutionary mechanisms of coexistence.

    2. For wolves, protection against injuries when dividing the territory is tied to the marking of their lands. A pack of wolves walks around the territory and marks the borders. Wolves expand like gas, that is, they occupy all available space. Until they meet other people's signs.

    Such (conditionally) interactions are formed here:

    3. Saiga - the main prey of a wolf in this steppe - runs fasterup to 70 kilometers per hour. But the wolf is more enduring and smarter. The main strategy is to launch a young one out of the pack to drive the saiga along complex arcs so that it exhausts itself. It is usually exhausted for 10-12 kilometers. The wolves change several times, and then, when the saiga begins to run slower than the leader, the leader rushes and deals the final blow.

    4. When a saiga escapes to someone else’s territory (beyond the marks of a pursuing pack, or, more precisely, into the area of ​​the war of marks) it cannot be pursued by these 10-12 kilometers — it will cost itself more. The risk of injury to a competing neighbor is higher than the reward for catching meat on hooves. Here is the saiga survival strategy:

    5. The logical consequence: they begin to group together (unconsciously, due to shyness settings) in this way, because it is better to run away like that.

    We can say that those who did not understand or did not have already been eaten. The selection is quick, the wolf needs 10-15 kilograms every 3 days.

    6. Now environmentalists worry about the number of saigas and discover that their main enemy is wolves. And they decide to reduce the number of wolves. Imagine that flock 2 is simply destroyed. Flock 1 immediately ceases to limit itself within the radius of pursuit, and saigas discover that they cannot escape. Finita.

    So the destruction of part of the wolves sharply reduces the number of saigas, as they become more accessible prey for the remaining.

    Who is this saiga and why should it be protected?

    Saiga tatarica is a margach antelope with a very strange nose that protects the lungs from dust. Therefore, the saiga smells rather poorly. In this antelope, shyness settings are twisted to maximum, plus good vision (non-color) and excellent hearing. The result - they detect danger from about a couple of kilometers (the size of a drone from 400 meters, the sound of a car slamming a door from a kilometer), rise and start to run away. They have a speed of 70 kilometers per hour, faster in the steppe there is simply nothing. Even cars cannot do this, because the steppe only looks flat, but actually consists of bumps. The saiga weighs about 20-40 kilograms (which is small for such a visual size), so it can change the direction of running quickly to dodge from shrubs, pits and stones.

    They eat everything in the steppe that they find from the grass. Often devour what other herbivores can not because of the high concentrations of toxic substances. Saigaku doesn’t care, he doesn’t even choose food. In winter, they try to migrate from the snow so as not to hatch the grass from under it. And at the same time it sheds white. By the way, the reserve is called “Black Lands” not because of black earth, but because there is little snow, and the steppe here does not even become completely white even in winter.

    The reserve and wildlife sanctuary are limited on all sides by pistes, shepherd points (farms) or natural barriers. There was an electric fence near a special nursery in case of the last reserve for the population, but now this small nursery has been gone since 2015. There are still relatively few saigas, and a lot of cars. They don’t cross the road because they see the car from far away. If you drive at least once an hour, then they get scared and run off the road. So fences are not needed. Plus, there is food in the winter - there is little snow in Kalmykia, and they normally eat grass lying in the autumn. They still have an abundance, but with an increase in the number of over 20 thousand they will begin to cross more actively across the road.

    It is necessary to protect it because once this particular antelope build was once the most adapted for Europe - approximately in the Pleistocene. The settings were so successful that the saiga almost did not change to the modern version: at least the skeletons of the modern and archaeological are almost identical. The combination of speed, timidity and terrible adaptability to the heat and steppe poisons of plants gave them the wildest selection bonus. So that they lived already in the British Isles and in Siberia.

    As usual, then a man came and drastically reduced the population. The first blow was after the collapse of the USSR, when saigas began to be knocked out. The story is almost like with bison , they were reduced to a minimum and then gradually restored. Only a bison left less than a hundred, and several thousand saigas, though not all species either. Then there was this. I will quoteWiki :

    With the collapse of the USSR, uncontrolled production of saigas began with the aim of exporting horns to China. According to Geo magazine, in the period from 1990 to 2003-2006, the number of saigas in the world decreased by 94–97% - from about one million to 31–62.5 thousand individuals.

    Now the main population is out of danger. In the reserve "Black Lands" a minimum of 3,500 goals. That's when I went this weekend, WWF was registered, in winter there will be normal my own accounting. Presumably, now about 7 thousand individuals.

    What else is interesting in the reserve besides the saiga?

    “Black lands” is the only training ground in the Russian Federation for studying the steppe biome, and it is here where the saiga lives. It includes two sections: the large steppe and the water Manych-Gudilo, about 340 kilometers away at the other end of the republic. The steppe plot is divided into a reserve and a reserve. The reserve is a special protection and special management. A wildlife sanctuary is almost the same, just a completely different, simpler one. Thanks to the environmental education activities of the reserve, you can get into the reserve as a tourist accompanied by a reserve employee, and there is even limited grazing there. That is, the reserve is a zone where you simply can’t, and the reserve is where you need to follow a bunch of rules, but you can be.

    Interesting sea in the steppe. Let's start with pink salt marshes that look just cosmic. Then I was lucky that Dmitry Dobrynin, who participated in the accounting, was just checking the tablet on the ecotropic and gave a short lecture about sagas. So where does salt come from? It comes from soils in all environs, protrudes on the surface, and then is shifted by sediments to a lowland. More precipitation - salt will spread throughout the territory. A little less rainfall - it will stay on top. And so the fertility of the earth is preserved and these very salt marshes are formed.

    Here you can see the terminator:

    Colloidal clay just captures the salt from the water, this is the outer contour. Then comes the evaporation pool, where the salt already settles in a thick layer, this is the middle of the salt marsh. It turns out a large flat salt layer. The salt marsh grows, but it can also be covered with earth (the last time it was after the storms), therefore, the soil structure is here and there in the spirit of a layer cake from layers of salt and earth.

    The usual saga without a wild amount of artemia, and here are some more photos

    This year, a young sand strangler began to climb into the solonchak. This is the same snake that can crawl in the upper layer of sand like a submarine. It seems that they are accustomed to walking on the other side for some food in the border layer to the salt, but with the growth of the population they began to "cut" through the lake. The result is salt poisoning about a third of the way. Since this is a hypothesis, the employees of the reserve, while driving past this saga, stop, collect stranglers along the edges of the lake (in the middle it is already useless, even if they are alive) and take them out to the grass. If the hypothesis is true, it is a natural population limiter. If not, you need to save the snakes, and they save, as it turns out.

    According to the reserve, several skradok and photo traps were installed. Hiding is needed so that saigas get used to a stationary object, and scientists can hide behind them and in them. Or tourists - on a new ecotropic (it was launched on June 19, 2019), a couple of “fences” are standing near the sagas in order to see a group of saigas trying to relax near the water at the very peak of the heat.

    Traces of the saiga in salt

    But much more interesting is the camera trap. I was lucky that Gennady (reserve researcher) came with a laptop to the cordon and began to disassemble the material. Interesting scenes there are just the sea. For example, they have a moment where at night a wolf comes to a watering hole. She puts the saiga foot carefully, drinks it, then gently takes her foot and leaves.

    The trap writes video and sound when moving clips for 15 seconds. That is, if the movement continues, then the recording goes on. Then Gennady selects valuable for science, and environmental enlightenment from them takes something for social networks (only a couple of percent of the selection of science falls into open access). Here are some videos they posted on their channel.

    Saigas at a watering place - listen to how funny they grunt (grunt). Characteristic head movements - insects are very annoying to them.

    Here at once dofiga of everything: you can see the winter camouflage of the saiga, you can see how they go “diagonal”, they are scared of the camera (fixed) and the one-horned saiga starting from 0:43. By the way, about walking - this is amble, about the same way an elephant can walk. Most likely, this is from a very old firmware of movement on four legs.

    Cool video from the wolf trap. Still here, antelopes eat clay to collect the missing minerals in the body.

    If you have two more minutes to climb, here's another cool trap.

    Traps are launched even by rain, tumble-balls and rolling cruciferous, birds and a bunch of other movements. Traps often show how animals behave, and this provides excellent ethological material.

    For example, they have a video, like a pegank duck, flying away from the nest, going to wash. She does this almost in a panic, incredibly fast and very worried about the abandoned chicks.

    Or the wolf dug a hole - a wolf drinker. They in the steppe feel the scent of the place where the subsurface waters fit and make a “hole”. But this is not a hole, but a passage to the water, at the bottom of this approximately half-meter hole, a small puddle is obtained. They drink from there. A trap near the drinker - and here is a bunch of valuable material.

    Watering traps are generally a Klondike. There is a Soviet artesian well, which simply raises the water up in a small stream. Around the conditionally fresh lake at the top (the water is salty, but suitable for drinking), respectively, and everyone comes there.

    Sneaking around a watering hole, you can see the water pipe for this mini lake

    Foxes drink carefully. Wolves and eagles confidently. Badger does everything funny. Etc. There are crazy hedgehogs, gophers, ferrets and many more in the assortment. By the way, yes. Gophers dig holes in which the saiga can damage the leg. It is clear that this almost immediately becomes the wolf’s breakfast, but sometimes employees manage to help with a fracture or dislocation. For example, Inspector Evre saw once in that year a saiga on three legs and gave him first aid. And at the same time he gave the nickname. Whether the Tripod is still alive, no one knows, because either the leg healed or was eaten, and it is difficult to remember them all in the face.

    The worst in the Black Lands is Dobiralovo. There is a terribly inconvenient scheme when you need to leave Astrakhan or Elista in the morning, go to Yashkul by minibus (2-3 hours), then take a local taxi or hitchhike 39 kilometers to Adyk, and there they will meet you at UAZ. Now, it seems, there is an opportunity to pick up small groups directly from Yashkul, this changes a lot. Alternative - you can rent something with a not very low ground clearance (for primer) and put it right on the shepherd's point near the cordon, warning the shepherd. Locals in villages go by foot, and generally quite successfully. Here is the site of the reserve , where there are phones and everything is described in more detail.

    Here Sergey and Gennady - science. They checked the facts of the post and specified the size of the population. Behind the guys there is a wagon, which was brought for the opening of the ecotropy for the holiday. Now this is just the background, it is not used in any way. Please note, judging by the t-shirt of zamponauk, elephant trails are found in the reserve:

    One of the bases inside the reserve is Ozerny cordon:

    On the cordon you can spend the night in a house, there is a gravity-type shower and toilet, a refrigerator, a stove with a balloon, a well and a kettle. Power supply from solar panels, windmill and battery. At night, the battery runs out, the cordon is cut down until the morning, and if you wandered in the steppe, you’ll get lost as you do. Because cell repeaterthere were no visual landmarks either, and as a result, the only bright romantic lighthouse on the entire steppe was a cordon. One group was already lost, but there were experienced people: they just sat in the steppe and sat until morning. There is almost nothing particularly dangerous in the reserve: poisonous snakes to the north, wolves are very afraid of people, the only thing is the standard set of spiders, including karakurt. Closer to Adyk there are riding camels , there they can insult you if you really ask. Taking into account the temperatures of the surrounding steppe in the summer, this is directly a Martian base in miniature. And it’s better to move on rovers from the domestic auto industry. Although, again, there is one walking route, and in the evening it is quite pleasant to walk along it.

    If you are going to the reserve, you should know that the saiga is most easily seen more or less closely in the summer in the heat when it is resting on the salt lakes. In May there is calving, it is better not to ride. In winter it will be necessary to sit in skradk for a long time (and now, too, if you want to be 15-20 meters away, and for a long time it is to go in secret at 3:40 in the morning and leave at about 16:00 in the afternoon). On April 10-15, the steppe blooms with tulips and explodes with greenery, this is a very important and beautiful moment in general in any steppe biome. Gophers wake up from hibernation at the end of February, then lie back at the end of May. Those who did not have time to eat a lot can wake up in the fall. A big jerboa wakes up in March, but it's pretty hard to see, you have to watch it at night. You need to take binoculars or a telephoto lens with you. And prepare for survival in the heat of +41 in the shade. Only shadow is a problem

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