Conservation of Saiga Antelope Populations

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > North Asia/Mongolia > Kazakhstan

A saiga baby, Kazakhstan.
© WWF Russia / Yuri Grachev

Summary

The project focuses on conservation and restoration of saiga antelope populations in Kasakhstan.

Background

The saiga antelope is a unique species. A one-time contemporary of the mammoth, it has survived practically unchanged since pre-glacial ages. Saiga antelopes are nomadic animals that, during their long evolution, became well adapted to the harsh and unpredictable conditions of the dry steppes and semi-deserts of Eurasia. In spite of their relatively short life span they have an extremely high reproductive rate. This makes the populations capable of quick recovery from periodic high mortality rates induced by changes in habitat conditions.

Populations of saiga antelopes have dropped catastrophically within the last 10-15 years due to uncontrolled poaching, mainly on males. Poaching was driven by transitional socio-economic conditions in countries of the former Soviet Union, whilst demand for saiga horn increased to supply the Chinese traditional medicine market.

Objectives

Main objective

Conservation and restoration of saiga populations in Kazakhstan.

Specific objectives

1. Immediate measures to stop poaching in key populations in Kazakhstan.

2. Detailed aerial and ground surveys of the Betpakdala population and elaboration of a conservation action plan. This will include data gathering on population status and trends, seasonal distribution, sex-age ratio, major threats, as well as identification of conservation measures with relevant government agencies.

Solution

- Urgent anti-poaching initiatives.

- Establishment of a system of protected areas of different status, which could ensure sustainable development of saiga populations.

- Cooperation with international and other stakeholders involved in saiga conservation.

Achievement

- Betpakdala saiga population stabilized and increasing:
> 2,000-3,000 in 2003
> 5,000 in 2004
> 9,900 in 2005
> 16,800 in 2006

- Memorandum of understanding and action plan prepared and signed by all Central Asian range states in 2006.

- Coalition of international NGOs established in order to create, in cooperation with the Kazakh government, a system of protected areas of more then 6 million ha.

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