The Saiga Antelope, Saiga tatarica, is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Speciesä. Saigas have a distinctive appearance, with an unusual swollen nose that filters out airborne dust during the dry summer, and warms cold air before it enters the lungs during the winter. This species is found in isolated populations in south-eastern Europe, Central Asia and western Mongolia.
Despite once numbering over one million in the mid-1970s, intense hunting pressure has reduced the global population to some 50,000 individuals. Saiga may be hunted for meat or for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine due to alleged curative properties. As only males bear horns, selective hunting has distorted the sex ratio, resulting in reproductive failures.
Coordinated conservation measures have now stabilized the decline in Saiga Antelope but hunting has continued, despite being illegal in all countries throughout its range. To conserve this species, the strengthening of anti-poaching laws, proper enforcement of legislation and the extension of protected areas are crucial.