Public Outreach – an important tool in improving the protection of saiga in the North-West Caspian
The saiga population of the North-West Caspian remains critically endangered, with about 3500 animals. Their main threat being poaching for their horns which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
About 2000 of these saigas live within the boundaries of the Stepnoi Sanctuary in the Russian Federation’s Astrakhan region, an area of over 100,000 hectares. 50,000 hectares of which is exempt from grazing livestock and is one of the reasons the sanctuary is able to provide areas perfectly suited to both the saiga’s rutting and calving periods.
Currently a team of 10 rangers is always on duty, working around the clock to ensure that not only do poachers never harm a single saiga, but that the territory they live in is kept in optimum condition. They put out wildfires, create and maintain saiga watering holes, and patrol the entire area for over grazing, incursions by farmers and poachers and also carry out wildlife education at their HQ, to name but a few of their duties. All this goes on despite the extremes of temperature they encounter, which range from 40o in the summer to -35o in the winter!
Thanks to the hard work of the rangers the sanctuary has a growing reputation as a centre for science and conservation of saigas and other wildlife in the region. To strengthen this important element of their work we will be funding a new portacabin. This will be placed inside the sanctuary and will act as a hub for visiting scientists, filmmakers and conservationists. The rangers will also be able to hold environmental education sessions there to inform local people about the important role the sanctuary plays in preserving their wildlife, and to inspire them to get involved in conservation.