Monday, May 30, 2011

And the winner for Coolest Nose On An Antelope... Saiga Conservation Alliance

Saiga Conservation Alliance logo

I will start off my conservation blogging efforts spotlighting a group which protects a species which was once extremely common throughout grassland & semi-arid deserts within central Asia.  The saiga Saiga tatarica is an antelope species which looks like something inside a Star Wars film, and has become critically endangered through poachers, who harvest horns for the Chinese medicine trade and meat.  The population has plummeted- it is only 4% of its size during the 1970's.   Since saiga sporting horns are targeted, most animals killed are males.  Consequently, the saiga's situation is much worse than just having 4% remaining; since the sex ratio is so strongly skewed towards females, there are not enough males around to breed all remaining females, so the population's effective size is far smaller regarding breeding potential.  This is a serious issue concerning recovery potential.  Use the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© and we see that losing 96% of the population = having all humans die through the North & South American, African, Australian, Antarctic, and European continents, and all people throughout Asia except those inhabiting Indonesia & Malaysia.  Seriously- 96%.  I do not have words...  And that's only the population decline since the 1970's- long before then the saiga's range contraction was already substantial.  It is not possible to get much worse and still be tenable for the saiga.

Fortunately, the population plummet alarmed some concerned scientists who formed the Saiga Conservation Alliance to arrest and reverse crashing populations.  I have met the executive secretary, Elena Bykova, repeatedly and her knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment have impressed me.  But don't take my word, let David Attenborough tell you about her and her project instead: 

Isn't it a great project?  Want to follow them on Facebook?  Interested in helping?  You can donate money or time to save this amazing species.

Maybe you want to see more photos or videos of these incredible animals?

Want to learn much more about saiga?  Check out the following links/books:

Handbook of the Mammals of the World volume 1

The Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 2 Hoofed Mammals.  This volume will be released in August, and you can rest assured it will be the top reference book for hoofed mammals in our lifetime.  The previous volumes on mammals and birds are absolutely amazing.  Pricey but well worth the cost.
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