The saiga or saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) is a hollow-horned ungulate living in the steppes of Eurasia. The species' population has collapsed in recent decades due to hunting, and it is classified as critically endangered.
The saiga antelope is a short-legged antelope weighing 50 kilograms and about 60–80 cm tall. The antelope is best recognized by the specially shaped peaty tuft and layered horns. Peat acts as a filter against the dust of the steppes. Only the male has layered horns. It is yellowish brown in color.
Saiga antelopes were once widespread in the steppes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, from the Carpathians and the Caucasus to Mongolia. Nowadays, they are only found in a few areas in Russian Kalmykia, Kazakhstan and Western Mongolia.
Saiga's main food is salt grasses, but most other Aro plants are also suitable for it. Saiga can survive for a long time on a rather meager diet. Saiga eats an average of 1.7 kg/day in summer and 0.7 kg/day in winter, based on dry weight.
Although the total population of the saiga can be quite large at times, the saiga is endangered due to hunting and mass deaths.
Not long ago, saigas were common, and the population size was estimated at more than 1.2 million in Russia and Kazakhstan. when? In less than ten years (from 1993 to 2001), 97.5% percent of this number has disappeared, and only 30,000 saigas remain. Most of these are also females, and there are no great hopes for the species to recover without help. According to biologists, the loss of the saiga antelope is the most sudden extinction of a large mammal ever observed.
Partly responsible for the destruction of saigas is WWF's campaign to save the endangered rhinos. Rhino horn is used in China to make medicine, which makes it a sought-after commodity and an attractive target for poaching. WWF tried to solve the problem by marketing to the Chinese saiga antelope horn instead of rhinoceros horn. However, Saigos have no chance to survive the increased demand and industrialized hunting, where hunters use motorcycles and powerful weapons to kill animals.
Entire Saiga populations have been observed to have died out en masse. For example, in May 2015, a third of all saigas in the world died, an estimated 130,000 in Kazakhstan. The largest herd destroyed consisted of 60,000 antelopes, all of which died. Mass destruction happens so quickly and kills even a large herd completely that it is estimated that it cannot be an infectious disease. One guess for the cause is some bacteria in the antelopes, which becomes lethal under certain conditions. Another guess is a good harvest season for peas and alfalfa due to the rainy and warm weather. In this case, the bacteria that break them down would produce so much gas in the intestines of the saigas that the saigas would die of starvation. After the mass destruction about a year ago, the Saiga Conservation Alliance, an organization focused on the protection of saiga antelopes, announced that the cause of the destruction is a respiratory infection caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacterium. The bacterium is common in the respiratory tracts of animals, but in saigas it developed dangerously, causing high fever, breathing difficulties and eventually death in antelopes.