Jan 19

Kazakhstan has extended a ban on hunting saiga antelopes until 2021, aiding in the continuing efforts to save this Critically Endangered species.

Photo of a male saiga antelope running

The saiga antelope, a distinctive species classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Saigas under threat

A highly distinctive species with an enlarged, bulbous nose, the saiga antelope inhabits the arid steppes and grasslands of Central Asia. However, the saiga population has undergone a dramatic crash in the last two decades, caused primarily by uncontrolled hunting and a high demand for its horns for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

From a population of over a million in the 1990s, the saiga antelope now numbers only around 50,000 individuals, and the targeting of males for their horns has led to a severely skewed sex ratio.

Photo of saiga antelope hunters

Hunters targeting saiga antelopes. Saiga horns are highly valued in Chinese medicine, and illegal poaching continues.

The saiga antelope is also under threat from overgrazing and habitat loss, and last year an outbreak of the infectious disease pasteurellosis claimed the lives of nearly 12,000 saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan.

Photo of Russian saiga antelope migration

The saiga antelope migrates from its summer pastures in Kazakhstan to wintering grounds in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Good news for saiga conservation

Illegal poaching is an ongoing threat to the saiga antelope, and urgent conservation action is still needed to prevent the species from declining further. However, the renewal of the hunting ban is a positive step in the ongoing efforts to save this unique mammal from extinction.

Photo of a saiga antelope calf with adult female

Female saiga antelope with calf.

See the Saiga Conservation Alliance for more information on saiga antelope conservation.

View more species from Kazakhstan on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author