Saiga Antelope

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.

Threats and Challenges

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.

International Work Programme

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:

  • Improved monitoring of the status of individual populations, including participatory monitoring with local people
  • Application of the same recommended monitoring methodology throughout range states
  • Assessment of species’ distribution, spatial and temporal variation in breeding pastures and migratory routes
  • Reduction and control of saiga poaching
  • Creation of alternative livelihood options in rural villages that depend on poaching for income and employment; creation of incentives for conservation at local level
  • Awareness raising (regional, national and international levels)
  • Improvement of the protected area network, focussing on birth and rutting areas and including transboundary protection areas
  • Application of captive breeding where appropriate; knowledge transfer on techniques
  • Reduction and control of illegal trade in saiga produce; compliance with CITES provisions
  • Assessment of long-term conservation solutions, including sustainable use if populations have recovered to a level that would allow for such use

Activities under the MOU

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

Countries

Titlesort descending Status Status date Party number Region
Kazakhstan MOU Signatory 2006 97 Asia
Mongolia MOU Signatory 2010 65 Asia
Russian Federation MOU Signatory 2009 AM Europe
Turkmenistan MOU Signatory 2005 AM Asia
Uzbekistan MOU Signatory 2006 55
Instrument nameMemorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope (Saiga spp.)
TypeArticle IV(4)
LanguagesEnglish
Russian
DepositaryCMS Secretariat
SignatureSigned by 5 States and 10 Co-operating Organizations (for details please scroll to 'others' and 'countries')
In effectImmediately following the signature by the third State; open for signature indefinitely, will become effective for each subsequent Range State on the date of signature.
Actually in effect25 September 2006
Website URLhttp://www.cms.int/saiga
OtherSigned also by Co-operating Organizations: CMS Secretariat (23.11.05), Ministry of Nature and Environment of Mongolia (23.11.05), International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (23.11.05), IUCN/SSC (23.11.05), WWF International (23.11.05), Fauna and Flora International (24.09.06), Frankfurt Zoological Society (24.09.06) and Wildlife Conservation Society (24.09.06); Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (10.09.10) and the Saiga Conservation Alliance (10.09.10)

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