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.