The Mongolian hunting law does not mention the wolf Canis lupus, which is generally interpreted in the way that wolves can be hunted anytime and anywhere, including in protected areas. We investigated whether the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area (SPA), a strict nature reserve in southwestern Mongolia, acts as a refuge or a sink for wolves in the Gobi. Our expectations were that wolves in the Gobi 1) have large ranges similar to those in other equally unproductive habitats, 2) experience a high hunting pressure, and 3) have recently become an important export item for cross-border trade to China. We combined GPS positions of two adult wolves, wolf harvest data and a market survey on wildlife products to address the above questions. Range use of the two collared wolves was huge, but varied widely between the two animals (6,670 km2 for an adult female and 26,619 km2 for an adult male) and over time. Reproductive status and residency status were only known during the initial 8-months monitoring period of the female. During this ‘resident’ period her range size was 1,275 km2. Both wolves showed a clear preference of mountainous terrain over flat steppe, suggesting that only 21% of the SPA constitute preferred wolf habitat. Annual harvest in the park and its vicinity averaged 1 wolf/265 km2 in 2002/03, 1 wolf/120 km2 in 2003/04 and 1 wolf/310 km2 in 2004/05. However, hunting pressure was unequally distributed and particularly high in the northeastern corner of the park. During the active monitoring period of wolf F1, 35 wolves were killed within her ‘resident’ range, suggesting a high hunting pressure. Most wolves were shot from motorised vehicles, possibly explaining the preference of wolves for mountainous terrain which is inaccessible for vehicles. The market surveys revealed products from ∼2,000 wolves on the two border markets, a huge discrepancy to only 150 CITES permits officially issued annually. Although our data are insufficient to allow a truly quantitative assessment of the impact of human induced mortality on wolf conservation status in the Great Gobi B SPA, it points towards a potentially severe conservation problem requiring further attention.
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