We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.
Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.
Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.
Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).
Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!
Species: Saiga antelope
Nominated by: Saiga Conservation Alliance
Conservation status: Critically Endangered
Why do you love it? With a face like that how could you not? This beautiful, yet slightly odd-looking antelope is a unique animal that usually reminds people of a Dr. Seuss character!
It used to roam the plains from the USA to China, (and everywhere in-between) along with ice age animals such as mammoths and sabre tooth cats, and is evolutionarily distinct from other antelopes.
It is a symbol of the steppe for the nomadic people it shares its habitat with, and has been an important source of food and inspiration for centuries.
Unfortunately, in recent years saiga antelopes hold a sad record in the animal world – they are one of the fastest declining mammal species on our planet today. Since the early 1990s global saiga numbers have declined by over 95%, and they are fighting for their survival.
What are the threats to the saiga antelope? Poaching is the main factor driving the decline of saiga populations. The saiga’s meat and hide are traditionally valued, but nowadays male saigas are primarily hunted for their translucent amber horn, which is used Southeast Asian countries for Traditional Medicine.
They are also under threat from oil and gas exploration and the development of infrastructure such as irrigation channels, roads and railways, which have become obstacles during their long migrations.
Finally, outbreaks of disease like the recent tragedy in Kazakhstan in 2015 when over 85% (more than 200,000 saigas) of that population died in just three weeks, are a great concern to us.
What are you doing to save it? The Saiga Conservation Alliance works through partners in the saiga’s range states of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and Uzbekistan and in the consumer state of China, carrying out conservation activities, research and public engagement.
A small selection of our work includes:
Scientific research: Working with a team of international vets and scientists to carry out research into the causes of the mass die-off in 2015. Using new technology such as high resolution satellite imaging and mounting aerial and ground surveys with local people we monitor the saiga population. We also radio collar saigas so we can trace their migratory routes and support grass-roots conservation and emerging conservationists though our small grants awards each year.
Public Engagement: In rural areas within each range state we support several Steppe Wildlife Clubs were children can come together to learn about the natural environment and the importance of each species within it. They learn about saigas as well as other species from around world, take part in conservation activities such as creating wildlife gardens in their local communities and help us to run our well-established Saiga Days. Saiga Day is an international celebration of all things saiga, with children and adults like taking part in sporting competitions, plays, dances, poetry recitals and art competitions focussed about the saiga. With the help of local children and a wildlife artist we have created wonderful wildlife murals in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and plan one in Russia this spring.
We recently held our first Steppe Wildlife camp, where children from remote areas were shown bushcraft skills including foraging and survival, as well as abseiling and hiking in the mountains, creating news articles and generally being inspired by nature and conservation. We also support women in poor rural areas, who have little or no income, to learn skills in traditional embroidery. We help them to sell these products so that they can afford to stop buying saiga meat.
Working with rangers and government: We help governments design new protected areas for saigas, train customs officers, sniffer dogs and rangers in how to spot and stop the illegal trafficking of saiga products. We also help equip rangers with equipment such as 4×4 cars, motorbikes and protective clothing so that they can safely patrol saiga territories in extreme temperatures from -30o in the winter, to over 30o in the summer.
Media: With the help from rural children in Uzbekistan we have created two award-winning saiga cartoons and a music clip. We have also created lots of interesting documentaries and clips about saigas and the importance of saving the entire ecosystem they live in. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or on our two websites; the The Saiga Conservation Alliance website or our more scientific site the Saiga Resource Centre, where you can also sign up to receive our newsletters and ebulletins.