Saiga antelope in Uzbekistan
The only viable population of saiga antelope living in Uzbekistan is found on the island of Vozrozhdeniye, which, due to the catastrophic shrinking of the Aral Sea, is no longer an island but a peninsula. The antelope are now at higher risk of poaching since there is no longer protection from being on an island.
Surveying the land
During the course of two years Lena Bykova and her team from the Saiga Conservation Alliance visited the region to assess the status of the population. Lena enlisted the help of three unemployed men from the region to gather information from local fishermen, shepherds, villagers and border guards, whilst they surveyed different parts of the region for evidence of saiga. This region is vast and many areas are very inhospitable so looking for animals over short periods of time isn’t always successful. Enlisting the help of locals is critical. Altogether, the team amassed records of small resident saiga herds and also larger groups of 200 animals. However, motorbike tracks in the same regions also confirmed that poachers are still hunting the animals, even in areas where it’s difficult to get to by vehicle.
The good news is that the team’s efforts has alerted the government to the problem and rangers are now active in the area to help protect the saigas. Now they are investigating whether this local population of antelope are connected to larger populations in Kazakhstan and, if so, the land used for migration between the two needs to be given legal protection.
Thank you to all those involved, and to all of you who helped to fund this work.