Asia's odd-ball antelope gets collared

October 19, 2006

ULAANBAATOR, MONGOLIA (October 17, 2006) -- A group of scientists led by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) working in Mongolia's windswept Gobi Desert recently fitted high-tech GPS (Global Positioning System) collars on eight saiga antelope in an effort to help protect one of Asia's most bizarre-looking - and endangered - large mammals.

Standing just under two feet at the shoulder and weighing about 50 pounds, the most striking feature of the saiga is its large nose, or proboscis, similar to a tapir. The function of this unusual nose is not clear, but it may serve to warm or filter air during Mongolia's frigid winters and notorious dust storms.

Today saiga numbers have plummeted by 95 percent from an estimated one million animals just 15 years ago, due to poaching for Chinese medicines and competition with livestock. In an effort to safeguard remaining populations, WCS, along with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and support from the National Geographic Society, have embarked on this study to better understand the needs of these unusual ungulates and how best to protect them.

"The GPS collars will provide information on movements of saigas across this dazzling but arid landscape so that a more comprehensive conservation strategy can be developed to assure the persistence of this little known species" said WCS research scientist Kim Berger, a co-director of the study. Saigas still occur in pockets of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kalmykia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia, but the genetically unique subspecies found only in Mongolia numbers perhaps less than 2,000. Ten thousand years ago saigas roamed from the northern Yukon and Alaska to England, but the species was lost from North America and Britain as climate and vegetation shifted. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, unregulated hunting resulted in the recent startling decrease in saiga numbers.

"Although Mongolia faces stiff conservation challenges as it transitions to a free-market economy, the saiga can easily emerge as a success story with a little scientific input and support for local communities" offers Joel Berger, project co-director and Senior Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"We must take immediate actions to protect habitat and stop and poaching for saiga horns, while improving the conditions and resources of park rangers who are spending their valuable time to protect this unique species," said Lhagva Lkhagvasuren of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences "Otherwise, we will have only an empty steppe and deserts with no any saiga. Future generations will never forgive us for our carelessness."
-end-
CONTACT: John Delaney (718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

Wildlife Conservation Society

Related Wildlife Conservation Society Articles from Brightsurf:

San Diego zoo global biobanking advances wildlife conservation and human medicine worldwide
In a study that has unprecedented implications to advance both medicine and biodiversity conservation, researchers have sequenced 131 new placental mammal genomes, bringing the worldwide total to more than 250.

South African wildlife management/conservation models do not protect carnivores equally
In results released this week, an international team of wildlife ecologists reports that the trend toward more reliance on private game farms and reserves to manage and conserve free-ranging carnivores in South Africa is more complicated than it appears - ''a mosaic'' of unequal protection across different land management types.

How to bring conservation messaging into wildlife-based tourism
A new study from the University of Helsinki suggests that wildlife-based tourism operators should be key partners in educating and inspiring tourists to take informed conservation action.

We're getting better at wildlife conservation, AI study of scientific abstracts suggests
Researchers are using a kind of machine learning known as sentiment analysis to assess the successes and failures of wildlife conservation over time.

Reimagining the link between space and species could boost wildlife conservation
University of Kansas investigator Jorge Sobero?n offers a new method for ecologists to calculate the correlation between geographic space and the number of species inhabiting that space.

The Physiological Society urges Government step change to meet its own Ageing Society target
The UK Government is at risk of missing its target to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035, according to a new report, Growing Older, Better, published by The Physiological Society on Tuesday Oct.

Seagrass meadows harbor wildlife for centuries, highlighting need for conservation
Seagrass meadows put down deep roots, persisting in the same spot for hundreds and possibly thousands of years, a new study shows.

Why can't we all get along (like Namibia's pastoralists and wildlife?)
Scientists interviewed pastoralists in Namibia's Namib Desert to see how they felt about conflicts with wildlife, which can include lions and cheetahs preying on livestock and elephants and zebras eating crops.

How does wildlife fare after fires?
Fire ecologists and wildlife specialists at La Trobe University have made key discoveries in how wildlife restores itself after bushfires, and what conservationists can do to assist the process.

Living room conservation: Gaming & virtual reality for insect and ecosystem conservation
Gaming and virtual reality could bridge the gap between urban societies and nature, thereby paving the way to insect conservation by the means of education and participation.

Read More: Wildlife Conservation Society News and Wildlife Conservation Society Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.