The study of mammals suffering intense poaching in remote areas poses an increasingly difficult conservation challenge, in part because the extreme flightiness of such species complicates safe capture. The benefits of handling (an opportunity to obtain biological information and attach radio collars) must be weighed against stress to the animals and potential capture-related mortality. In parts of Central Asia this problem is not trivial, as populations have been heavily harvested and opportunities for restraint are often limited. Mongolian saiga Saiga tatarica mongolica, being both Endangered and poached, typifies these issues. Here we describe capture protocols for adult females handled quickly and without anaesthesia. Using multiple vehicles driven at high speed, individual saiga were isolated from groups and herded into nets. Chase time was linearly associated with rectal temperature (P < 0.03), with maximum pursuits and temperatures of 9 minutes and 43.1 degrees C, respectively; time to release averaged <7 minutes. Given that rural residents often chase saiga and other desert and steppe-dwelling ungulates, for photography or for amusement, our results offer conservationists and government officials an empirical basis for recommending prudence on chase times and/or for recommending that the practice be prevented.
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