The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope (Saiga spp.) was developed under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and has been in force since the First Meeting of Signatories in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in September 2006.
All five range states of the Saiga antelope have signed the MOU: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Cooperating Organisation that have signed are the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK), Fauna and Flora International, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA), the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF International.
The Saiga antelope (Saiga spp.) is a critically endangered migratory ungulate of the steppes and semi-deserts of Eurasia. Until the late 1980s more than a million saigas used to roam the arid regions of Eurasia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, saiga populations declined by more than 95% - primarily due to poaching for the species’ meat and horn. This population collapse was one of the fastest observed in a large mammal in recent decades. While individual populations are starting to recover, especially the transboundary ones continue to be in a perilous state.
Throughout saiga range states it is illegal to hunt saiga. Yet overexploitation remains the primary threat to the species. Urgent action is required to halt the decline and to restore populations throughout the species range. In 2002, all saiga populations except for Mongolia were listed on CMS Appendix II; since 2008 all saiga antelopes have been listed in CMS Appendix II. Already in 1995 was the saiga included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to primarily address the illegal trade in saiga horn. CITES and CMS work closely together to contribute towards the international conservation of this flagship species of the Eurasian steppes.
Conservation efforts of this species are critically dependent on international collaboration between the range states. Several populations are transboundary and the length of the species migratory journeys between summer and winter ranges can exceed 1000 km north to south. To coordinate conservation measures throughout such a large range the close collaboration of range states, NGOs, scientists, local people and the international community at large is required.
The CMS MOU together with the associated Action Plan and a Medium-term International Work Programme (MTIWP), which has superseded the Action Plan, provides a road map to guide the implementation of conservation action for the saiga antelope in the range states and in those countries which import saiga products, such as the species’ horns. The work programme has been drafted in consideration of biological, economic and social research, as well as practical information provided by a range of stakeholders. Activities focus on the following objectives:
Activities that contribute to the implementation of the CMS MOU and Action Plan are collected and communicated to stakeholders and interested individuals through Saiga News, a bi-annual newsletter of the Saiga Conservation Alliance, which is published in six languages. It is available at http://www.saiga-conservation.com/saiga_news.html.
At their second Meeting in September 2010, Signatories of the MOU also agreed that the technical coordination of the MOU would be provided by two NGOs: the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SC) and the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACB). Both organisations are working together to facilitate communication and information exchange between the saiga range states in order to support implementation of the MOU. To this end, a dedicated website was developed with financial support from Switzerland, available online at: www.saigaresourcescentre.org