Saiga (Saiga tatarica)

Did you know?

  • The saiga is recognizable by an extremely unusual, over-sized, and flexible, nose structure. The nose is supposed to warm up the air in winter and filters out dust in summer.
  • Saiga are nomadic creatures that frequently cross borders of provinces and countries during their several-hundred-mile migrations to winter grazing areas.
  • The species is known for its high fecundity. A female saiga will begin breeding and give birth to her first calf by the time she’s a year old.
The saiga (Saiga tatarica) is the world’s northernmost antelope. It originally inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppe zone.

Physical Description


  • Height: 0.6-0.8m at the shoulder
  • Weight: 36-63kg
  • Lifespan: between 6 and 10 years

Saiga are odd-looking creatures, with small, stout bodies propped on short, skinny legs. The antelope is about the size of a large dog. A bulbous hump on its soft nose filters out dust that blows across the dry plain. Only males sport the prized horns which help them defend harems of up to 24 females.

Background

Saiga populations numbered over one million as recently as the early 1990s, but have now been reduced to no more than 40,000. They are hunted for their fur, meat, and horns. The horns are considered as valuable in traditional Chinese medicine and are used to reduce fevers.

Saiga Conservation

WWF Mongolia undertook active conservation measures to protect the saiga from poaching which helped the population to stabilise. Other work has focused on protecting key habitats and traditional migration routes.

Legislation protecting saiga exists at national level, but increased enforcement, and especially external funding for anti-poaching measures and linked rural development are urgently needed. Some protected areas exist within the saiga range but distance between summer/winter ranges of the various populations hinders full protected area coverage. An extension of already existing and new protected areas is under discussion by the Russian Federation government. Some research is being carried out on numbers, range and behaviour. Total prohibition of saiga meat and horn trade as well as temporary removal of saiga from the hunting animals list have been proposed as key conservation measures.

The Mongolian saiga has been legally protected since 1930. It is listed as critically endangered by IUCN.

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