Vera Rduch, Waltraut Zimmermann, Karl-Heinz Vogel, Heinz Ladener and Alexander Sliwa
The saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) is a very special animal species whose husbandry and breeding was realized at Cologne Zoo over a long period. The saiga antelopes were living in the centre of the zoo, between the exhibits of the zebras, baboons and elephants in the enclosure, where nowadays goitered gazelles (Gazella subgutturosa) are kept. The animals arrived in Cologne 40 years ago, on 11th November 1976 and took up residence in their enclosure in December of the same year. They were kept for almost 33 years. In May 2006 a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) entering the enclosure resulted in the death of the last breeding females and their offspring. This was the end of the saiga breeding in Cologne Zoo. The last male, Imo, died in October 2009.
The challenging husbandry was continued for a long time after an initial article was published by Dr. Waltraut Zimmermann that dealt with the beginning of the saiga keeping at Cologne Zoo (ZIMMERMANN, 1980). Other articles were published from 1960 to the early 1990s dealing with the husbandry and breeding of saiga in various American and European zoos and report from Winnipeg Zoo (VOSS, 1969), Dallas Zoo (FONTAINE, 1965), Oklahoma City Zoo (RAMSAY et al., 1992), Tierpark Berlin (POHLE, 1987) or recount about the dam-reared lambs in San Diego Wild Animal Park (RUBIN & MICHELSON, 1994). It is a fact that in the past several zoos kept saiga antelopes (ZOOTIERLISTE, 2016), but nowadays the zoo population is nearly extinct. Only four animals, two males and two females, are currently living in Almaty Zoo, Kazakhstan (ZIMS, request from 18th
October 2016). Further, there is a breeding centre in Kazakhstan (G. Glázer, pers. comm.) keeping saigas. Additionally an unknown number of saigas are living semi-wild at Askania Nova, Ukraine (ASKANIA NOVA, 2016).
In May 2016 Gergely Glászer visited Cologne Zoo. He wanted to find out more about the husbandry of this antelope species. For us, this was the incentive to collect and publish the data about the husbandry and breeding of saigas at Cologne Zoo. This article is looking in retrospect at the husbandry and breeding of saigas and via this constitutes an “update” of the earlier article. Even if Cologne Zoo does not keep saigas today, we want to share knowledge about this endangered species and its husbandry. Questions that we dealt with during our work are: How were the saigas kept? What were the requirements of the saigas? What happened during almost 33 years of saiga husbandry at Cologne Zoo? A lot did happen: most notably, during these years we were able to collect data and to make
observations that can only be collected in zoos.
The sources of information were interviews with the zoo keepers of the saiga antelopes, Karl-Heinz Vogel and Heinz Ladener. Further, the keeper’s journals were viewed. Data about the Cologne animals were taken from ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) and supplemented with data from the compilation by Marvin L. Jones (JONES, 1996).