About Saigas

Saiga juvenile

Photo by: EJ Milner-Gulland

The saiga antelope is a migratory ungulate of the steppes and deserts of Central Asia and Russia. The saiga is found in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and, rarely, Turkmenistan. The saiga's typical habitat is flat open areas covered with low-growing vegetation, allowing animals to run quickly; areas of broken terrain or dense cover are generally avoided.

Range Map

Range map - 1. Pre-Caspian population; 2. Ural population; 3. Ustiurt population; 4. Betpak-dala population; 5. Mongolian population. Redrawn from Milner-Gulland, E.J., Kholodova, M.V., Bekenov, A.B., Bukreeva, O.M., Grachev, Iu.A., Amgalan, L., Lushchekina, A.A. (2001) Dramatic declines in saiga antelope populations. Oryx 35, 340-345.


Photo by: EJ Milner-Gulland

A migratory species, saiga antelope live in large herds, usually up to a thousand individuals. They have a high rate of reproduction and recruitment, with females giving birth in their first year of life and routinely twinning after that. This gives the species the resilience bounce back from population crashes caused by harsh winters or disease, and from overhunting.


Photo by: Navinder Singh

Key references

Bekenov, A. B., Grachevand, A. and Milner-Gulland, E. J. 1998. The ecology and management of the Saiga antelope in Kazakhstan.Mammal Review28(1): 1-52.

Chan, S., Maksimuk, A. V. and Zhirnov, L. V. (eds). 1995.From steppe to store: the trade in saiga antelope horn. pp. 47 pp.. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds),Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Kuznetsov, V. and Lushchekina, A. 2002. Kalmyk saiga is on the verge of catastropheStepnoy bulluten11.

Kühl, A., Balinova, N., Bykova, E., Esipov, A., Arylov, Iu.A., Lushchekina, A.A., Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2009) The role of saiga poaching in rural communities: Linkages between attitudes, socio-economic circumstances and behaviour,Biological Conservation,142; 7, 1442-1449

Lhagvasuren, B., Dulamtseren, S. and Amgalan, L. 2001. Mongolia. In: D. P. Mallon and S. C. Kingswood (eds),Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans, pp. 159-167. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Lushchekina, A. A., Dulamtseren, S., Amgalan, L. and Neronov, M. 1999.The status and prospects for conservation of the Mongolian saiga Saiga tatarica mongolica.

Mallon, D. P. and Kingswood, S. C. 2001. Chapter 41. Regional Action Plan for Antelope Conservation. In: D. P. Mallon and S. C. Kingswood (eds),Anteloepes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans, pp. 231-243. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Mallon, D. P. and Kingswood, S. C. 2001.Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Milner-Gulland, E. J., Bukreeva, O. M., Coulson, T., Lushchekina, A. A., Kholodova, M. V., Bekenov, A. B. and Grachev, Iu. A. 2003. Reproductive collapse in saiga antelope harems.Nature422: 135.

Milner-Gulland, E. J., Kholodova, M. V., Bekenov, A., Bukreeva, O. M., Grachev, I. A., Amgalan, L. and Lushchekina, A. A. 2001. Dramatic declines in saiga antelope populations.Oryx35(4): 340-345.

Sokolov, V. E. and Zhirnov, L. V. 1998.The Saiga antelope, phylogeny, systematics, ecology, conservation and use. Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Zahler, P. 2004. Recent Management and Conservation Initiatives for Mongolian Gazelle, Mongolian Saiga Antelope, and Gobi Bear.Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences2(2): 47-49.

Zahler, P., Lkhagvasuren, B., Reading, R. P., Wingard, G. J., Amgalanbaatar, S., Gombobaatar, S., Barton, N. and Onon, Yo. 2004. Illegal and Unsustainable Wildlife Hunting and Trade in Mongolia. Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences 2(1): 23-31