Status of the steppe marmot in the Central Black Earth region
Oleg V. Brandler (Institute of Development Biology, Moscow)
The bobak or steppe marmot (baibak, Marmota bobak) features in the IUCN Red List under the category Least Concerned. Between 1983 and 1998, it was listed in the Russian Red List and later removed as a species with a recovered population. In Russia, the bobak marmot features in many regional Red Lists under various categories. A history of its distribution in the Central Black Earth Region is described and data on its current distribution within Belgorod, Voronezh, Kursk, Lipetsk and Tambov Provinces are summarised. The population number in these areas varies from 40 individuals in Tambov Province to 75,000 in Voronezh Province.
The causes of the reduction in number and the prospects for the species’ recovery are addressed in detail. The main reasons for the marmot having disappeared in the European part of its range relate to the continuous plowing up of land, the reduction in livestock numbers and unregulated hunting. Within non-intervention protected areas (ie. wilderness areas), both a reduction in number and a complete loss of the species are common. Both the extension of its range and the emergence of new populations depend on two main factors, namely, an increase in grazing and/or hay-making pressure on steppe areas and reintroduction. Current trends in livestock breeding development, such as the predominant practice of feeding beef cattle indoors, may lead to repeated reductions in population number and the area of marmot habitat over the next decade.
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