Endangered saiga antelopes began to multiply successfully. As a result, the Ministry of the Environment of Kazakhstan has announced the antelope population has exceeded 1.3 million individuals. Biologists are excited because this species used to face severe diseases and poaching in the past.
Diseas and Poaching Have Almost Wiped Out the Saigas
Concerns about saiga antelopes grew seven years ago. The year 2015 was extremely warm and wet, which is why antelopes were dying of a bacterial infection. As a result, Pasteurella and Clostridia bacteria thrived, killing over 200,000 saigas, half the world’s population.
Some naturalists have warned that if another two or three similar years come, these antelopes could become extinct in the wild. Fortunately, this did not happen. Instead, the census has produced excellent results.
The Antelopes Population Is Raising
Three years ago, the number of saigas rose from 334 thousand to 842 thousand. This year, biologists in Kazakhstan counted at least 1.3 million individuals. Aerial photographs helped to achieve the results. The census of animals took place in April, i.e., when pregnant females are not yet giving birth.
In addition to potential diseases, poaching harms the Eurasian antelopes. Poachers crave the flesh and horns that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The situation escalated in 2019 when poachers in Kazakhstan killed two government officials responsible for the saigas’ protection. The government then promised to step up the fight against poaching – according to new data, apparently successfully.
According to the AP, the success of this rescue is also a cause for concern. Authorities officially banned saiga hunting in the late 1990s, and it would expire next year. However, when the numbers of animals are high enough, there is a possibility that hunting will be allowed again.
Featured image by Ej Milner-Gulland, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58735069