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Wild And Wonderful Saiga No Longer Endangered

Decades of hard work on the part of national and international conservation partners have reaped rich rewards for the saiga, one of the world’s most charismatic and, until recently, most endangered antelopes.

The IUCN Red List status of this timeless talisman of the Central Asian steppes has been changed from Critically Endangered to Near Threatened.

The dramatic downlisting reflects a remarkable rebound in saiga numbers, particularly its Kazakhstan stronghold, where populations have bounced back from a perilously low 48,000 individuals in 2005 to a new high of over 1.9 million.

It’s hard not to romanticize the Central Asian steppes with all their great history of intercultural exchange and travel. But leering at all the passing Turkic tribes, Mongol hordes, peaceful nomads, and Marco Polo would have been the saiga antelope.

The most characteristic feature of this animal are without a doubt the pair of bloated downward-facing nostrils, and the gorgeous, ringed horns sported only by the males. Large nostrils are typical of sprinters or cold weather environments, but it’s possible they are also a display tool for potential mates.

Described by Fauna and Flora International as a “genuine collaborative effort” involving state governments, research institutes, and conservation NGOs, the return of the saiga has featured many “false dawns.” Of particular impediment to their recovery has been frequent outbreaks of zoological diseases.


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