Saiga antelopes are one of the world’s most rapidly declining species. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of saiga has declined by over 90%, with populations scattered throughout Kaxakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Mongolia. The saiga antelope was contemporaneous with the mammoths and woolly rhinoceros during the last ice age, and with the help of the dedicated conservation experts of the Saiga Conservation Alliance, they will be around for many years to come.
The SCA is a network of scientists and conservationists working together on grassroots projects to protect this small, unique and critically threatened creatures. Last year, WILD partnered with SCA on several community-based outreach initiatives.
One of the main threats to the Saiga is poaching. Saigas are hunted for their meat and translucent amber-colored horn (used throughout Southeast Asia for medicinal purposes). Primarily driven by poverty and unemployment, poaching is as much a social issue as it is an environmental threat.
Promoting alternative livelihoods, specifically supporting woman’s cooperatives (handicrafts and cow rotation) and outreach through publications and public awareness activities are the two main programs used by SCA to decrease poaching. WILD partners with SCA on these projects, and thus far has seen positive results though there are some challenges with the remoteness of the regions and realizing the full-cycle of producer to buyer for handicrafts.
The Saiga typically only stands between 2-3 feet tall (0.6-0.8 meters) and weighs between 80-130 pounds (36-63kg). It is recognized by its over-sized, flexible nose, which warms the air in the winter and filters out dust in the summer. They can cover vast distances and swim across rivers, but stay away from steep or rugged terrain.