Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on March 20, 2008
If you type “saiga” into the fountain of all knowledge (I refer you to the infamous Wikipedia), it redirects you to the Saiga Antelope, adding: “For the shotgun named after the antelope, see Saiga-12”. Which is ironic when you think about it, as poaching is one of the main reasons this beautiful creature is now an endangered species. With its population dwindling a staggering “95% in just 20 years” — from one million in 1988 to a mere 50,000 today — the saiga is facing the threat of extinction.
Saigas live in large herds that graze in the semi-deserts of Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. If you’ve even seen a saiga, you’d remember it for its distinctive nose structure, which is used to “warm up the air in winter and filter out the dust in summer.” The male antelopes carry horns used in Chinese medicine, making them a target for the above mentioned poachers. According to the IUCN Red List, poaching has created “severely skewed sex ratios,” which could plunge species into “reproductive collapse.”
In addition to poaching, over-hunting and elimination of traditional breeding and migration routes, the saiga now faces a “migration bottleneck” in Mongolia. According to Mongolia Web News, “saiga are reported to need to traverse a three mile wide corridor to connect with other saiga populations. However, competition for use of the corridor with livestock herds, and truck and motorcycle traffic is preventing saiga migration.”
It seems ramped-up conservation strategies are required to ensure the saiga lives on, and not just as a Wikipedia entry.