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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 180517915

Enigmatic undescribed Sicista in Northern Ossetia (Central Caucasus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 180517915) - Kazbeg birch mouse - Awarded $2,000 on July 01, 2018

We have completed another expedition to the Caucasian Mountains. The goal of this expedition was to search for more populations of Sicista kazbegica - a species qualified as Endangered. During our previous project we were able to find 2 populations in North Ossetia. This time we started our journey on 7 July from North Ossetia, visited Arkhon Pass, Zgid Pass, Zaramag, Tsey, Pasture Ridge. Here we were able to verify the presence of only those two populations we discovered in 2014. After that we travelled to Digoria - a remote valley on the border between North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. We didn't record any birch mouse there. As we finished our main part of the expedition, we decided to visit some places on our way back. First we travelled to the mount of Elbrus - the highest mountain in Caucasus (5642m). We omitted this region in 2014, so it was very interesting to inspect it. First of all, the amount of tourists is overwhelming. Though we managed to find some birch mice on the slopes of the Elbrus mountain. Many other parts with suitable habitats were ruined with a powerful mudflow that happened in Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018. Then we travelled to Teberda and Arkhyz. This two regions we already visited in 2014, so it was important to see how our birch mice are doing there. We verified old localities that still prospered with good numbers, and mapped several more new ones. At the same time some localities were ruined and places were we have seen birch mice are now transformed into hotels, ski trails, roads.

The continuing degradation of Caucasian Mountains, that are declared as World Heriatge Site, is a worring sign for a humanity. Maybe we are the last generation that can enjoy the wilderness and beauty of this mountains and observe many wild animals that live only there.

Project 180517915 location - Russia, Asia