Enhancing stakeholder engagement with CMS MOUs: the Saiga Resource Centre

Current conservation issues for the saiga

By 2005 the saiga had declined to an estimated 50,000 individuals, in 5 populations, 3 of which are found in Kazakhstan. Concerted conservation efforts since then have led to an overall population increase to an estimated 100,000 individuals (though both estimates are subject to bias and uncertainty; McConville et al. 2009). However this masks a mixed picture; the small Mongolian population appears stable, the Russian population is not recovering and is subject to heavy poaching, as is the transboundary (Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan) Ustiurt population; the Ural population (Kazakhstan/Russia) appears to be increasing slightly, while the Betpak-dala population (Kazakhstan) appears to be increasing healthily (information in CMS Status Report, 2010). Kazakhstan holds the majority of the global saiga population.

Heavy poaching, documented in Kuhl et al. (2009), is still ongoing in all saiga populations, but with increasing success in law enforcement as documented in Saiga News. A recent study of the Ustiurt population (undertaken by FFI, SCA and ACBK) showed substantial poaching and cross-border trade in both meat and horns, with trade routes going through Kazakhstan to Almaty and on to China. Other threats include infrastructural development for oil and gas, as well as potentially climate change and land use change.

In May 2010, 12,000 saigas died over the course of a week in the Ural population. This was mostly females who had just given birth, and was estimated at 1/3 of the population. Major investigations by the Kazakh government were initiated, with international support, and the SCA and ACBK instituted the population's first public engagement project. In both 2011 and 2012 around 500 saigas died in similar circumstances, and investigations are still ongoing. The collaboration promoted under the CMS MOU, which this project aims to promote, was instrumental in ensuring a coordinated and constructive approach to the problem.

Currently a fence is being constructed along the Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan border, which threatens to bisect the fragile Ustiurt population. Again a coordinated response is being launched with the involvement of the CMS, national and international partners, supporting the Kazakhstan Committee on Forestry and Hunting through suggesting mitigating fence designs and promoting bilateral discussions between the two countries.

Background to the project

In February 2011 the CMS, SCA and ACBK jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the aim of consolidating, developing and intensifying their cooperation and their ability to support the implementation of the MTIWP under the Saiga MoU and improve its monitoring, coordination and cooperation. The SCA and ACBK aim to provide technical and logistical support to the CMS, help to develop mechanisms for broader communication between all interested parties, and promote a proactive approach to driving saiga conservation forward internationally. The planned outcome is that coordination has a positive effect in increasing and improving saiga conservation activities within the framework of the MOU MTIWP.

MOU coordination requires strong links with all stakeholders, from the secretariat to ground-level implementers, and particularly with the range state governments. It also requires a broad knowledge of the activities being carried out range-wide and internationally to conserve saigas, and an ability to ensure that there is ongoing communication between all involved in implementing the MTIWP. ACBK, with its deep and extensive in-country links, and SCA, with its international network, are ideally placed to do this.

In order to kick-start the coordination process the Swiss Government generously donated a grant of 15,000 Euros via the CMS. These funds were used for the initial development of the SRC, the development and implementation of new reporting forms for the collation of information from national governments, NGOs and other interested parties, the development, maintenance and inclusion of the project and experts databases into the SRC, to establish and support a coordination office within ACBK in Astana, Kazakhstan, and for the translation of the main content of the SRC into Russian.

Saiga News

Saiga News, the SCA's biannual bulletin in six languages (English, Russian, Chinese, Uzbek, Kazakh, Mongolian), was developed as a service to all those working on saigas, including conservationists, governments and the public throughout the world, but particularly within the range states. This was in response to a perceived disconnect between in-country knowledge and actions and the decisions made in international forums. The aim was to build an international community of those working to conserve the saiga, using Saiga News to share information, opinions and expertise.

Saiga News is the authoritative source of information on saigas for a growing audience, publishing the results of saiga-related research and conservation initiatives and acting as an important forum for open public discussion on topical issues (e.g. the causes of the recent mass saiga deaths in Kazakhstan). It carries news items, articles, profiles of saiga heroes, project updates and press reports and is published in six languages to ensure that it is widely accessible. The Editorial Board has representatives from all range states, China and the UK, and its wide readership ranges from schoolchildren in remote villages to government ministers. Saiga News helps people who would otherwise not be able to publish their work in an international journal to do so, to access information about what others are doing and to share best practice.

The importance of Saiga News as a communication mechanism was recognised in the saiga MOU's MTIWP in both 2006 and 2010, with support for its mission listed as a priority action. It won the prize for best environmental publication in Uzbekistan in 2008, and its influence has been recognised by consistent grant funding from a range of supporters. Issue 15 will be published in summer 2012.

Justification of implementers/collaborators

The SCA was involved in monitoring the MOU on saiga conservation from June 2007 to October 2009, under a contract from the CMS Secretariat to Imperial College London. This included creating and maintaining databases of saiga experts and of saiga conservation projects; and reporting on a 6-monthly basis on progress towards the implementation of the MTIWP, with the reports being available in English and Russian at the SCA website's MOU page and summarised in 6 languages in the bulletin Saiga News. Under this contract, the SCA convened an interim technical meeting in Kazakhstan in October 2008 to review progress. For the second meeting of the Signatories to the MOU, the SCA took the lead in preparing a report analysing progress towards implementing the MOU, in preparing the draft MTIWP for 2011-2015, and in chairing the discussion of both these reports in the technical meeting and revising the documents accordingly. More recently the SCA has been responsible for the design, implementation and ongoing maintenance of the SRC.

ACBK has worked intensively with a wide range of stakeholders in Kazakhstan over the last five years to design and implement conservation actions for the saiga. ACBK therefore has a strong track record of on-the-ground implementation of the MTIWP itself, and of interaction with the signatories to the MOU and other parties who are also working towards fulfilling the MTIWP on the ground. In particular they have a strong and long-standing relationship with the Forestry and Hunting Committee of the Kazakhstan Ministry of Agriculture and its relevant bodies, which means that they are able to liaise directly with them on MOU coordination matters. As Kazakhstan is the range state with the largest saiga numbers, covering 3 of the 5 populations of the species, this is an important requirement for effective implementation of the MTIWP. More recently ACBK have been responsible for the design of national and project report forms and ongoing interaction with those completing the forms, and the maintenance of stakeholder and saiga conservation project databases. The SCA and ACBK have a track record of successful collaboration, and ACBK Director Olga Klimanova is a member of the SCA Steering Committee.

Impact and benefits

This project will have an indirect but significant impact on the conservation of the saiga antelope by directly supporting the implementation of the MoU on saiga conservation. Coordination of conservation efforts and collaboration between range states, NGOs, scientists, local people and the international community is essential for a species which has a number of transboundary populations and is known to migrate in excess of 1000km between seasonal ranges. The activities proposed by this project provide a mechanism by which this cooperation and coordination can take place. These activities also provide a mechanism by which progress towards the MTIWP can be tracked and measures which require greater attention identified. More efficient coordination of conservation activities will directly benefit the saiga antelope and help to achieve the overall goal of the MTIWP; that saiga populations show an increasing trend or their decline is halted over the next five years.

Sustainability

The previous project funded the building of the framework of the SRC and databases - we now have an opportunity to catalyse the ongoing engagement of stakeholders with the MOU, through using these frameworks to their full potential. Once the SRC is part of the saiga community's engagement with the CMS MOU it should be maintainable with minimal financial and technical input, which could be covered from core funds. Saiga News's sustainability is testified to by its long-running success.

Local involvement

The aim of the project is to involve as many stakeholders as possible in saiga conservation activities, within the framework of the CMS MOU. We achieve this by our three activities: a) development of the SRC, project and expert databases; b) engagement of stakeholders and focal points; c) support of Saiga News. The databases are explicitly aimed at involving as wide a range of people as possible, from local rangers to government ministers, and at linking stakeholders to each other. This feeds into the deeper personal engagement in activity 2. Saiga News has a proud tradition of being read at all scales and by all interested people, from local villagers in the saiga range who are inspired to see their saiga initiatives featured in the newsletter, to international treaty officers. Ensuring that all who care for saigas are able to receive, write in, and be featured in, the newsletter, is fundamental to its success.

Not all stakeholders have access to the internet, or can read English. To address the former, we produce Saiga News and the project/expert forms in hard copy for wide distribution. To address the latter, we have a strong focus on translating materials into local languages.

To maintain and expand the Saiga Resource Centre, expert and project databases; To engage with national focal points and other stakeholders; To support Saiga News as a key reporting mechanism

Description:(1) Collation of materials and uploading of project and expert data (2) Translation of the key content into Kazakh (and other languages) (3) Ongoing maintenance and improvement following roll-out
Start date:01 September 2012
End date:01 August 2014
Responsibility:(1) SCA/Anthony Dancer (2) ACBK/Alyona Shmalenko (3) SCA/Anthony Dancer
Output:(1) SRC is fully populated with all relevant available information (2) SRC is accessible to a wider range of stakeholders in Kazakhstan (3) SRC runs smoothly and meets needs of stakeholders
Description:(1) Personal contacts and lines of communication established with each individual national focal point (2) Engagement with other stakeholders including at key meetings and events (e.g. local saiga days), and through email and phone contact
Start date:01 September 2012
End date:01 August 2014
Responsibility:(1) ACBK/ Olga Klimanova, (2) ACBK/Olga Klimanova, Alyona Shmalenko, Gulmira Izimbergenova, SCA/Elena Bykova, E.J. Milner-Gulland
Output:(1) Focal points are engaged on an ongoing basis, and provide materials in a timely fashion (2) Promotion of the CMS saiga MOU at a range of levels, SRC is kept relevant and up to date, CMS MOU progress monitored, and results reported back to CMS
Description:(1) Develop searchable Saiga News archive at SRC site (2) Publish 4 issues of Saiga News (3) Distribute hard copies to local stakeholders
Start date:01 September 2012
End date:01 August 2014
Responsibility:(1) SCA/Anthony Dancer (2) SCA/Elena Bykova (3) SCA/Elena Bykova, ACBK/Gulmira Izimbergenova
Output:(1) Information in Saiga News available to readers (2) Saiga News produced in 6 languages and distributed widely (3) Local people and major event attendees have access to Saiga News

No pictures for Enhancing stakeholder engagement with CMS MOUs: the Saiga Resource Centre


Implementing AgencySaiga Conservation Alliance (SCA)
Collaborating agenciesAssociation for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) Contact person: Olga Klimanova Position: Director E-mail: olga.klimanova@acbk.kz Telephone: +7 727 2203 877

Activity start dateSeptember 2012
Activity end dateAugust 2014
CMS AppendixAppendix II
Taxonomic groupTerrestrial mammals
Target regionAsia
Target countryKazakhstan
Final technical reportNo

Climate Change
Ecological interactions and habitat change
Habitat loss and degradation
Energy production and mining
Infrastructure and service corridors
Illegal trade
Unsustainable hunting and trapping