ISSN 1067-4136, Russian Journal of Ecology, 2008, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 210–214. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2008.
Original Russian Text © D.A. Bondarenko, E.A. Peregontsev, G.B. Mukhtar, 2008, published in Ekologiya, 2008, No. 3, pp. 222–226.
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to
the assessment of population numbers of the steppe tor-
toise (Bozhanskii and Frolov, 2001; Bondarenko and
Peregontsev, 2006). However, the state of its popula-
tions in Kazakhstan, where a large part of the species
range is located, remains poorly known. Steppe tor-
toises as an item of wild animal trade were commer-
cially harvested from the 1970s to the 1990s (Kubykin
and Brushko, 1994), with the major proportion of
catches having been made in the Arys Massif, South
Kazakhstan oblast. Available data on the state of popu-
lations in harvesting areas were obtained more than 20
years ago (Kubykin, 1985, 1989). We made an attempt
to assess the current state of steppe tortoise populations
in different natural landscapes of southern Kazakhstan,
including the former harvesting areas.
Studies were performed in South Kazakhstan and
Zhambyl oblasts in 2003 (April 11–13) and 2005 (May
5–9). Censuses of tortoises were taken by a conven-
tional method of straight-line transect census. The total
route length reached 73.3 km, with 49.1 km being cov-
ered on foot and 24.2 km by car. Censuses taken from a
car complemented the data obtained along foot routes
and were used only on an open, easily surveyable ﬂat
terrain. Such an approach allowed us to markedly
reduce the time spent for examining large areas with an
extremely low tortoise population density. On the route,
we recorded all tortoises within the range of vision and
estimated the distances of their location (perpendicular
to the line route). The sum of these data were used to
calculate the average location distance ( ) and the
effective census strip width (
) in each locality. Tor-
toise population density (
) was calculated by the for-
is the total number of individuals,
is the num-
ber of individuals with known location distances, and
is route length. On automobile routes, tortoise counts
were taken on only one side of the route and, therefore,
population density was calculated without multiplying
the effective strip width by two.
This formula for calculating population density
introduces correction for an incomplete count of ani-
mals, which is inevitable during censuses along a
bounded strip (Chelintsev, 1988). The above methods
for taking count and calculating the population density
of desert reptiles in open habitats proved to be more
accurate than other methods of route census (Bond-
arenko, 1994; Bondarenko and Chelintsev, 1996).
Counts of tortoises were taken in the period of their
highest activity. To characterize environmental condi-
tions, air and soil surface temperatures were measured.
In localities with a high abundance of tortoises, the age
and sex composition of populations was determined.
The age of tortoises was estimated from the number of
annual rings on the horny plates of the carapace.
The following landscapes were surveyed: a pied-
mont sandy loam–loam plain near the Beltau Ridge (the
Arys Massif), an alluvial sandy loam–loam plain in the
Arys–Turkestan Lowland, a piedmont stone–loam
plain at the Karatau Ridge, ﬁxed ridge–hillock sands in
the Talas River delta, and ﬁxed ridge–hillock sands of
the Moiynkum Desert.
The Arys Massif is an undulating piedmont plain
with ephemeral vegetation lying south of the town of
Arys and bordering the Syr Darya valley on the west, a
railroad on the east, and the Beltau Ridge on the south.
y and y
Current State of Steppe Tortoise (
1844) Populations in Landscapes of Southern Kazakhstan
D. A. Bondarenko
, E. A. Peregontsev
, and G. B. Mukhtar
Head Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology, Russian Federal Medical–Biological Agency,
Pervyi Pekhotnyi per. 6, Moscow, 123182 Russia; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
State Biological Control Service (Gosbiokontrol), ul. Chashtepa 21a, Tashkent, 100160 Uzbekistan
Institute of Zoology, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
pr. Al-Farabi 93, Akademgorodok, Almaty, 050060 Kazakhstan
Received August 18, 2006
: steppe tortoise, abundance, sex and age structure of populations, Kazakhstan.