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Save the Mongolian Saiga Antelope while we still can
Until 10 years ago, the Saiga antelope was the symbol for the steppes of Central Asia. This is unfortunately no longer the case. Between 1980 and 2000, the species decreased from more than a million to 90,000 animals and it considered the most threatened large mammal o f Central- and Middle Asia. There are two subspecies: Saiga tatarica tatarica, which occurs in Kalmykia, (Russian Federation), and in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan), and Saiga tatarica mongolica, which occurs only in Mongolia (Great Lakes Basin), which makes it an endemic species. All populations decreased dramatically over the last 20 years (1980 -2000) from 1 million to about 90.000 (E.J.Milner-Gullard et.al., 2001).
The Mongolian Saiga is the most threatened subspecies and classified as endangered in the endangered species Red Data Book of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. From 1996-2000, the species made a remarkable comeback thanks to favourable weather conditions and anti-poaching operations supported by WWF Mongolia. This led to a remarkable increase of the Saiga population to about 5000 individuals. Sadly enough, the progress was rapidly lost, when due to lack of funds for anti-poaching activities, summer droughts and severe winters in 2000 and 2001, caused a dramatic crash of the population to about 800 individuals in a short time. Since then, the situation has been desperate: the species now occupies just 20% of its historical range and is close to extinction.
Rangers supported by the Mongolian WWF brought the herds back to 5000 animals by the year 2000
Trading with Saiga horns to China, for use in traditional medicine, is another of the main reasons why the species is so severely hunted. It is crucial to stop this trade at all levels. Poaching has lead to a rapid decline of the population and a dramatic change in the sex ratio, due to hunting of males (females do not carry horns), resulting in much fewer females getting pregnant. WWF Mongolia supported the training of custom officers and cooperates with the Ministry of the Environment to monitor the market, to identify illegal traders and to create awareness. Cooperation has also been established with the Gobi National Park in controlling illegal trade along the border with China.
The Market for traditional medicine in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in China where Saiga horns; lizards; and other wild animal parts are sold
Reducing habitat competition with livestock: Habitat competition is an other cause for the decline of the species. Poor winter pastures, caused by overgrazing by domestic animals in autumn, has led to mass starvation, in particular during winters with extreme weather conditions. It is necessary to introduce sustainable pasture management in order to improve the Saiga’s habitat, especially in autumn and spring. This can be achieved in cooperation with local people, for instance, by paying for compensations for leaving critical Saiga habitats free from livestock. This is being explored right now with the regional authorities and the relevant herder communities.
But most and for all, the anti-poaching operations are essential. With the population of the animal so low, we can't effort losing another animal to poaching. : Illegal hunting in one of the major threats.
Adopt A Ranger targets to raise funds for the salaries and operating costs of Nine Saiga honorary Saiga Rangers. They try their best, but they are completely under funded, operating with their private means (motorbikes for which WWF pays the petrol) and without any official status. Equipment needs are: Motorbikes, radios, field equipment (tents, binoculars, and sleeping bags), uniforms, cameras and GPS.
If all goes as planned, the funding will have the following results:
YOU CAN HELP SAVE THIS UNIQUE ANIMAL WHILE IT STILL IS ALIVE!