7 November 2013 - With support from Switzerland and through the CMS Small Grants Programme, a new website has been developed to share saiga antelope information and to facilitate implementation of the dedicated CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the species. Here one can not only find species data with plenty of publications, videos and photos, but also download educational tools and the “Saiga News” newsletter. There is a dedicated section of the website on monitoring the implementation of the CMS Saiga MOU, including an overview of conservation projects, official MOU progress reports and a database of experts.
The Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) is a CMS Appendix II-listed migratory ungulate of the steppes and deserts of Central Asia and Russia. Back in the 1980s saiga were a common species, with herds numbering several thousand animals during migration. Today Saigas have become Critically Endangered (IUCN Red List) and have been listed on CMS and CITES Appendices II in response to their sharp decline fuelled by poaching for the species’ meat and horn. Since 2006 a dedicated Memorandum of Understanding has been in force, which has been signed by all five range states Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as ten co-operating organizations. The instrument further benefits from collaboration with CITES and consumer states.
The Saiga Resource Centre (SRC) website was conceived of as a means of charting progress towards the fulfilment of the CMS MOU on saiga conservation. Designed and implemented by two of the Co-Operating Organizations of the MOU, the Saiga Conservation Alliance and the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan, the SRC was launched in June 2013 in Astana, Kazakhstan, at a CMS technical meeting.
To facilitate communication and make the site accessible to as wide an audience as possible, the Saiga Resource Centre is available in Chinese, English, Kazakh and Russian. The site has grown in both size and scope since its inception and now has three key functions. The first is to introduce saiga and their conservation status. The site has been so designed that it provides information useful to a broad range of users. Those discovering saiga antelopes for the first time can learn about the species and key conservation topics.
The site’s second function is to be a resource repository. Pictures, videos and literature were previously distributed across the Range States and beyond. By providing a centralized database for these resources they are accessible anywhere by anyone for the purpose of supporting, informing or promoting saiga research and conservation activities.
The third and perhaps most important section of the site is the Specialist Resources Section. This password-protected area of the site is designed for the use of all saiga professionals and provides an opportunity for those working on saiga conservation and research to exchange information and collaborate more easily. The range and consumer states tasked with a large portfolio of actions under the 2011-2015 Medium-Term International Work Programme within the framework of the Saiga MOU will benefit from quick access to information, including links to the CMS online reporting tool and official documents. All registered users within the Specialist Resources section can sign up to join a directory of saiga professionals and create a personal profile outlining their specific areas of work and interests, a database of users saiga projects is also available. Additionally a forum is currently being developed which will permit range state representatives, researchers and practitioners around the world to collaboratively discuss news, developments and ideas. Comments and ideas for improvements for the new Saiga Resource Centre are welcome and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is intended to be a tool for the entire saiga community to facilitate learning, sharing and effective conservation of the saiga antelope worldwide.
THE PROJECT OF THE MONTH
During the 2012 round of the Small Grant Programme a total of 75 applications was received and 12 projects were selected for funding. In the coming months each of these projects will be featured on the CMS website in a new “Project of the Month” series that will show the activities that are taking place within each project and the conservation impact on the species concerned.
The Small Grant Programme supports projects that are implemented on the ground with a strong focus on the conservation of species listed in the CMS Appendixes. It shows that CMS can really make a difference when it comes to improving the status of the species concerned working in close contact with the local communities.
During the period 2012-2014 the Programme is being generously funded by UNEP.