The Bukhara deer (Cervus elaphus bacrianus), also known as the Bactrian Wapiti, occurs in central Asia and is endangered. Habitat loss and poaching, particularly in the 1990’s, led to drastically declining population numbers, and in 1999 it was estimated that only 350-500 deer were left. A World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) project focusing on species conservation and restoration in model sites has since led to stabilization and population growth. The most recent census showed population growth of up to 1000 deer.
One of the major habitats for Bukhara deer occurs in the Tigrovaja Balka reserve in Tajikistan. As a native floodplain forest, the area of Tigrovaja Balka needs regular floods for normal existence and development. Natural floods are prevented by an artificial regime of water use (system of dams and dikes), so water needs to be given to the forest artificially once a year. To prevent flooding of fields and settlements surrounding the forest area, a system of dykes need to be reconstructed around the forest, and it is necessary to dig a canal from the river around the forest.
The main goals of the Bukhara deer project are 1) to conserve and restore the tugai ecosystem in the Tigrovaja Balka area in Tajikistan, providing a model for sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems in the Amu Darya river basin (including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan), and 2) to ensure restoration and sustainable development of the most important native bukhara deer population.
Minnesota Zoo’s Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant Program provided funding for this project in 2007 (also 2005) to build canals to help restore flooding cycles to Tigrovaja Balka. Staff champion for this project is Tony Fisher, Collections Manager.