Anatoly Khludnev is Director of the 87,000 ha Stepnoi reserve in Russia. He leads a team of 12 rangers protecting the reserve and several thousand saigas within its boundaries, representing a large proportion of the remaining Russian population.
This population is in a very serious condition – recent estimates by the Russian Department of Game and Hunting put numbers at 7,000, down from 12,000 just 2 years ago. In much of the saiga’s range in Russia there has been a marked increase in poaching, but the saigas in Stepnoi are thriving thanks to the efforts of Anatoly and his team, and USFWS’s support.
USFWS funding has directly enhanced the team’s capacity to combat saiga poaching leading to demonstrable improvements in saiga protection, and better equipment and transport to tackle poaching in future.
His team bought a “Patriot” 4×4 vehicle, which is able to function in the tough field conditions encountered in the Stepnoi reserve. During the project, the 4×4 patrol vehicle travelled 19,000 miles within the reserve and carried out 67 anti-poaching patrols.
The reserve has no permanent ranger post, and so the team have to sleep in their vehicles during patrols. Given that temperatures range from -38° to +42°, this is a significant hardship, and the better quality of the vehicle has helped them to improve their quality of life, and hence their ability to work in these tough conditions.
USFWS funding also enabled Anatoly’s team to buy a Suzuki cross-country motorbike, which is able to pursue poachers (who also have high performance motorbikes). The motorbike was used to prevent four cases of poaching during the project period alone, and was used in the fighting of 5 wildfires.
Most importantly, the team has a renewed sense of the value that others place on their work, and are proud of their capacity to carry it out – this validation by the outside world is an important morale booster during a period in which poaching pressure is intense.