Daria (Dasha) Maksimova, a graduate student at the Pacific Institute of Geography in Vladivostok, is the recent recipient of a prestigious 2012 Wildlife Conservation Society Research Fellowship for her project titled “Threats to musk deer population persistence in the Russian Far East”, with work focused in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik near Ternei,where our Siberian Tiger Project is based. The Research Fellowship Program has distributed more than $3 million dollars to conservation projects since 1993,and this year only 17% of submissions were awarded. It is worth noting that Dasha was born and raised in Ternei, and represents the first “local” to work with us on a graduate study in the 20-year existence of the Siberian Tiger Project.
Musk deer, which are famous for having fangs and a musk gland highly prized on black markets, are found throughout much of the higher elevations of East Asia, including the southern Russian Far East, where they are closely associated with mature coniferous forests. Musk deer numbers in Russia have declined sharply in the last decade, but the reasons for this remain unclear. Dasha’s work aims to identify the sources of the decline.Possible factors include logging (and its impact on forest structure), fire,and poaching, but the relative importance of these factors has never been explicitly examined.
In February 2012, Dasha began working on this collaborative study (partners include Pacific Institute of Geography,Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik, Svertsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution,Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund) to examine musk deer resource selection in forests with low and high deer densities. In addition to telemetry, she is also directly observing individuals’ behavior and surveying forest structure. Dasha expects that results will help determine the relative importance of factors negatively impacting musk deer populations, which in turn will have specific management implications.