Technology helps reveal more about Tibetan antelopes

A Chinese expedition team members have found four new breeding areas of Tibetan antelopes, each holding 2,000 to 4,000 antelopes, in northwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region with the help of an intelligent video surveillance system.

Tibetan antelopes is a species under first-class state protection in China and mostly found in Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The scientists, from the Shaanxi Institute of Zoology, have been monitoring the migration of the species by using the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System and the 4G wireless transmission technology in the Qiangtang National Nature Reserve in Tibet's Xainza County since May.

After field research, they installed monitor devices in the core calving area, which extended six to seven kilometers wide and 20 kilometers long to conduct regular observation.

According to their observation, the calving area hosted more than 4,000 pregnant antelopes in June and the lambing period lasted between 15 to 20 days, said Wu Xiaomin, a researcher from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Zoology.

"The area where we are right now is very flat. There are snow mountains around the breeding grounds, so they are rich in water resources. For Tibetan antelopes, the main natural enemy in this area is wolves. If a wolf comes to this area to attack the Tibetan antelopes, this flat area is relatively easy for them to escape. Even if they cannot escape, there will not be too many casualties," he said.

The antelope population was calculated using the system's data-processing software, said Wu. The software divided the ground into grids and counted the antelopes with the help of infrared camera recognition and then sent the data to the mobile and laptop terminals for further investigation.

"We will conduct a systematic monitoring to figure out how many antelopes give births here, how long they stay here, and in which direction they will go for return," he said.

The scientists have found that the Tibetan antelopes living in the area have kept close contacts with local herdsmen and their livestock. Therefore, they have developed some new characteristics that are rarely seen on other Tibetan antelope population. For example, some Tibetan antelopes gave birth to their babies in front of or even in the crowd of the livestock.

And after the baby antelopes were born, the mother would keep close to them, which is a very unusual behavior for Tibetan antelopes, Wu said.

"This phenomenon is somewhat different from the calving process of Tibetan antelopes we observed in the past. In the past, we saw in other breeding area that the mothers would leave the babies after they gave birth. Probably due to the impact of their natural enemies, the antelopes were very sensitive to the surrounding environment. They would leave their newborns on the ground, and the babies' fur is a natural camouflage. In addition, the newborns can stand up and run very fast within two hours," he said.

(Cover via VCG)

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