The overall winners of the 2014 SCA Award for Excellence in Saiga Protection were the rangers of the Irgiz Turgai State Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan. Before we launch the 2015 award next week let’s take a look at what makes this team so special

The team comprises a dedicated group of 65 rangers who protect the Betpakdala saiga population; one of the most important saiga populations in Kazakhstan.

We are grateful to this incredible team, which goes above and beyond its duties in the protection of saigas. In the spring groups of 7 rangers work in rotation to keep a constant vigil over the calving females and their young, while several mobile units survey the perimeter of the protected area, and during the hot summer months they keep a watchful eye over the saigas as they migrate. But the team’s work doesn’t stop there; each year it supports the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan to carry out an aerial survey of the saiga population as well as assisting with satellite collaring, which helps to give the ACBK more information about the population’s status and movements.

In 2013, together with enforcement agencies the team carried out over 30 joint operations tackling wildlife crimes, prosecuted 7 wildlife crimes and foiled at least 13 attacks by poachers in the reserve. At its own expense the team has built accommodation for its rangers in remote parts of the reserve, in order to better deter poachers in these hard to patrol areas.

The team also reaches out to local people and recently circulated over 400 copies of an ‘anti-poaching’ booklet as well as saiga desk calendars. It also created posters and video clips of saigas and produced a static saiga display in the park’s visitor centre. We are pleased to say that due in part to the hard work of the ranger team, the Betpakdala saiga population has grown dramatically since the opening of the reserve in 2007, (the lowest ever figures recorded were 21,000 in 2003) with the 2014 census showing 256,000 saigas present in the reserve!

Congratulations and thank you to the wonderful team at the Irgiz Turgai State Nature Reserve.

Irgiz Turgay_photos

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