London, May 13 (ANI): A mega-herd of a quarter of a million Mongolian gazelles has been seen gathering on the country's steppes, which is estimated to be the largest herd of gazelles ever recorded.
According to a report by BBC News, the biologists who saw it estimate it contained perhaps a quarter of all Mongolian gazelles on the planet.
"It was stunning," said Kirk Olson of the University of Massachusetts, US. "I don't know if I was surprised or simply blown away by what we came across," he added.
Olson and colleagues based in the US and Mongolia have published details of the epic gathering in the journal Oryx.
"I expected we would come across gazelles at times in large and impressive numbers. But, not a couple of hundred thousand in one sweep across the horizon," said Olson.
In September 2007, Olson's team was driving across the eastern Mongolian steppes studying the habitat of the Mongolian gazelle, one of the last nomadic ungulates to survive in large numbers.
Together with scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, they had been capturing gazelles and fitting them with GPS collars to track their movements, trying to work out where they travel and why.
As they drove east, they began to encounter herds of a couple of thousand individuals.
"Groups of this size are impressive and beautiful to see," described Olson.
Then, the following day, at about midday, they drove to a hillside offering a great view of what appeared to be one such herd.
"But it was really one edge of a group that ended up being over 250,000 by one estimate. We were simply amazed at the sight. The image I have in my mind of seeing this massive aggregation of gazelles will always be etched into my memory," said Olson.
Mongolian gazelles are known to gather in large herds. Groups containing 10,000 animals or more are often reported, while the largest herd previously known numbered 80,000.
"I expected that we would come across gazelles at times in large and impressive numbers," said Olson. "But not a couple hundred thousand in one sweep across the horizon. I had never seen that many before and that many had never been documented," he added.
Olson believes the gathering was a natural event triggered by a set of rare and extreme circumstances. (ANI)