Conservation boost for saiga antelope

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) welcomes the recent agreement to include Mongolian saigas in the international conservation plans for the Critically Endangered antelope.

The governments of all the saiga range states – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia and now Mongolia – have signed the “Memorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope.” The MoU falls under the UN Convention on Migratory Species.

“This is a ray of hope for the much beleaguered saiga antelope,” said FFI Eurasia Projects Manager Maria Karlstetter, who attended the conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where the MoU was signed.

“I hope this meeting has strengthened cooperation between governments to save this ecologically and culturally valuable species.”

Saiga numbered around one million in the early 1990s, but declined to around 60-70,000 in 2006. Since then, and in response to conservation efforts, their populations have stabilised and some even show an increasing trend.

Despite legal protection, the saiga are hunted for their meat and horns, which are used in oriental traditional medicine. Other threats include disease, pasture degradation and other disturbances from oil and gas extraction work and possibly climate change.

FFI has been working to save the saiga for over five years on the Ustyurt Plateau, which stretches across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The team is focusing on this location as it contains the only saiga population which is still decreasing.

We have just started a larger landscape-scale initiative on the Plateau to promote transboundary cooperation. FFI is working to tackle the complex threats to the saiga and working with local communities to find sustainable alternatives to poaching. The project is made possible by the USAID/ Sustainable Conservation Approaches for Priority Ecosystems Programme.

Did you know?

The saiga antelope can undertake migratory journeys between summer and winter ranges of over 1,000 kilometers. As a transboundary species, it is crucial that all the range states agree to protect the saiga if its survival is to be secure