Saiga Conservation Alliance
Saving the Critically Endangered Saiga Antelope from Extinction
The saiga antelope once roamed across Europe and North America alongside mammoths and sabre-toothed cats. Saigas live in some of the harshest lands in the world, often migrating long distances between summer and winter pastures. Their unique physiology is ideally suited for this climate and habitat.
Once numbering in the millions, the saiga population crashed by 95% in fifteen years, the fastest decline ever recorded for a mammal species. They are now critically endangered. In May and early June of 2015, over 200,000 saiga in central Kazakhstan died suddenly due to a respiratory illness. The fate of the saiga is also closely tied to the economic downfall of the USSR in the 1990s, and illegal poaching to sell the horns for “medicine.”
Saigas are under threat for several reasons; they are increasingly hunted for their meat and valuable horns, which are believed to have medicinal purposes. Oil and gas exploration and transportation as well as the laying of new road and rail infrastructures are hindering saiga migrations and impeding access to traditional pastures, many of which are being threatened by increasing livestock numbers.
The Saiga Conservation Alliance works across the saiga’s range in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and Uzbekistan as well as in consumer countries such as China, to secure its future. Recently, the saiga population in Kazakhstan has begun to increase again, thanks in large part to the efforts of SCA.
The saiga antelope ranged across the Eurasian steppe since the ice age. Its extremely unusual oversized nose inflates to breathe warm air in the frosty winters and filter dust in the summers.
Conservationists are working in several nations across the saiga’s range to save this rare animal. It takes field work, education and outreach to make a positive change and help their future.
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