Endangered Species of the Week: Saiga antelope
Species: Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The large proboscis-like nose of the saiga antelope is thought to help with body temperature control.
The strange looking saiga antelope has an extremely distinctive appearance, with an enlarged nose that hangs down over the mouth. This impressive nose is thought to warm and moisten inhaled air during the winter, and act as a filter against dust during the dry summer. Saiga antelope feed by grazing on various plants, and are usually active during the day. They are nomadic, and undertake long seasonal migrations of up to 1,000 kilometers. During the mating season, male saiga antelopes will aggressively defend a group of females. Fighting between males can be violent, often ending in death. Males also tend not to feed during this time, and the mortality rate can reach 90 percent due to exhaustion. Females usually give birth to two young, and these remain concealed in vegetation for the first part of their lives. The saiga antelope can be found in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia.
In the early 1990′s, Saiga antelope were thought to have numbered over a million. However, habitat loss and poaching over the past 20 years have resulted in a population crash, with only around 50,000 individuals remaining. Hunting is now banned throughout the saiga’s range, and a captive breeding programme has been established with further research needed in order to understand how to best conserve the fascinating saiga.
For more information on the saiga antelope, visit the EDGE website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author