Why the saiga antelope is in danger of extinction

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Have you seen this strange animal before? The Saiga tatarica It is an animal that has a very peculiar appearance, as it is an antelope with a very curious nose. However, having an appearance that may seem different and curious is a fact that does not save him from his current situation: the imminent risk of extinction. Over the last decades this species has suffered different dangers that have considerably reduced its population, to the point of being considered by the Red List of Threatened Species as a critically endangered animal.

In this Green Ecologist article we want to explain to you why the saiga antelope is in danger of extinction so that you know well their situation, as well as their characteristics, and help raise awareness among others to help the endangered animal and plant species of our planet.

Characteristics of the saiga antelope

Before starting to explain the reasons for their risk status, it is advisable to get to know this species a little better. Therefore, below we detail a list of the main characteristics of the saiga:

  • It is an antelope that lives in the steppe from eastern Europe to central Asia, that is, in the Eurasian steppe.
  • It lives in areas with extreme temperatures and conditions, being able to reach more than 40ºC in hot season and very few degrees, and even below zero, in winter, and to have little rains throughout the year.
  • They feed on grasses of small herbs and shrubs.
  • The Saiga tatarica He currently lives in 5 countries: Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
  • It has been extinct in 4 countries: Moldova, Ukraine, Poland and China.
  • They measure between 60 and 80 cm at the withers and weigh between 25 and 50 kg.
  • Their life expectancy is between 6 and 10 years.
  • Only males have horns, which can measure between 25 and 30 cm long.
  • Its nose is long and wide, it is a kind of proboscis that resembles an elephant's trunk but is short. It is believed that in this way the saigas manage to filter dust and air, to regulate their temperature.
  • There is a subspecies of saiga antelope that is scientifically called Mongolian saiga tatarica. This subspecies lives only in western Mongolia and is also in high danger of extinction, since a population of only 750 Mongolian saiga tatarica. However, this subspecies seems to be recovering in recent years.

The saiga, an endangered antelope

The saiga antelope according to the IUCN Network List is critically threatened, which is a step beyond the danger of extinction, the next step is to be extinct in a state of freedom, that is, in nature, and finally, to become completely extinct. Therefore, this species of antelope is about to become completely extinct.

In addition, the trend in the evolution of the population of this type of antelope is negative. That is to say, every year there are fewer saigas and the population is constantly decreasing. Specifically, in recent years only 18,000 adult saigas Worldwide.

In addition, as we have commented before, there are already some countries in which it has become extinct. For example, as early as the 18th century it became extinct from the Carpathians and in the 19th century from the rest of Poland and Ukraine.

Causes of the danger of extinction of the saiga

Surely, you wonder what are the reasons why the saiga is in danger, and the truth is that there are several causes that are causing this sad situation:

Intensive hunting

Even today the poaching of the saiga exists, since both its skin and its horns are quite sought after. One of the reasons for this illegal traffic, especially that of its horns, is due to its use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Loss of migration routes and habitat

The migratory routes of these antelopes are affected by the changes that humans make in the territory, whether by building towns, cities, roads or building other types of infrastructure. Therefore, we reduce their territory and make it difficult for them to reach other areas that they have always inhabited at certain times of the year. Having to stay in the area that they should leave at a certain time, they find themselves without enough food and water and with more extreme temperatures. Thus, they also find that they need to compete with other species for territory and food.

Changes in the weather

It is known to all that the climate has been changing for years and it is doing so faster and faster. For this reason, there are times when the saigas face very harsh winters and summers that are too hot and with little water.

Imbalance between male and female

Because males are sought after by hunters for their horns, there are fewer and fewer males. Therefore, there has been an imbalance between the number of males and females, making their reproduction more difficult.

In addition, they also suffer from the segmentation of the territory. That is, because there are fewer and fewer and their habitat changes, there are small groups of these antelopes that remain isolated from other larger groups, making their effective reproduction more complicated. These small groups are the ones that tend to disappear first.


Finally, another of the causes of the serious state of the species Saiga tatarica is that it has been suffering from deadly diseases and epidemics for several years. Specifically, in 2010 they suffered pasteurellosis and some 12,000 saiga antelopes died, in 2011 there was another outbreak of the same disease and around 500 individuals died, in 2012 the epidemic was repeated and another 500 specimens died and, finally and the most serious epidemic, in 2015 more than 130,000 saigas died, again due to the bacteria Pasteurella, but this last time others are suspected as well.

What to do to avoid the extinction of the saiga

Many are the people who wonder how to avoid the extinction of species, but the truth is that although we can do our best to remedy the factors related to us, there are other factors that we cannot control. However, know what we can do to avoid the extinction of the saiga It is important to be able to contribute our small part in a personal way:

  • Avoid polluting the environment: use less polluting energy, for example not using your own car and using more public transport or ecological transport, recycling everything we can, and so on.
  • Help fight poaching: On the one hand, we can personally avoid buying products related to it, report any case that we know of before the law and make financial donations and, in some cases, material donations to the organizations that are in charge of the fight against this global problem.
  • Help scientific research: if we contribute our part, either by studying and practicing or by contributing money for research and conservation associations. Thus, we can improve the health of this species and improve its chances of successful reproduction.

If you found this article about Why the saiga antelope is in danger of extinctionYou may also be interested in this other article by Green Ecologist on Species about to become extinct.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why the saiga antelope is in danger of extinctionWe recommend that you enter our category of Endangered Animals.

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