About USFWS Project

Building a Collaborative Foundation for Evidence-Based Saiga Antelope Conservation

Conservation funding often goes to individual projects, leading to missed opportunities for collaboration and shared learning. Short-term funding can produce good results, but valuable knowledge may not be shared beyond project teams. Investing in capacity-building is crucial, but there's potential to extend this support to a broader audience.

For saigas, there's a chance to change this approach. There's a strong global community of saiga researchers and conservationists, supported by the Saiga MOU. This agreement, in place since 2006, involves all saiga range states and major NGOs. Regular meetings help coordinate efforts and provide advice on conservation strategies.

However, collaborations are mostly limited to range states and China, with little involvement from other countries in the trade chain. Strengthening these connections could improve understanding and intervention strategies for saiga conservation.

This project aims to create the opportunity to engage across projects as well as ongoing learning and evidence-generation and generate investment in capacity-building

Statement of Need

The illegal wildlife trade can only be tackled based on a systemic understanding of the drivers of unsustainable use at different scales and for different actors; this requires an in-depth understanding through targeted research and evidence-gathering ('t Sas Rolfes et al. 2019).

This understanding then enables leverage points to be identified and interventions to be trialled, implemented and evaluated (Oyanedel et al. 2021).

The illegal, unsustainable use and trafficking of saiga antelopes is no exception.

Project Goal

To bring together all stakeholders involved in saiga conservation, especially those funded by USFWS grants, to boost our collective impact on the species' status and ecosystem role. This collaboration will ensure USFWS's investment in saiga conservation leaves a lasting impact, creating a platform for supply chain cooperation and knowledge sharing. Additionally, it will help train a new generation of saiga conservation experts worldwide. We also want to explore opportunities to collaborate with colleagues working on USFWS-funded projects for cheetah conservation, such as inviting them to workshops and sharing training resources.


Objective 1: Bring together all those involved in saiga conservation across the entire supply chain, creating a sustainable and inclusive network that tackles knowledge gaps in a coordinated manner.

Objective 2: Support the creation, management, and sharing of knowledge for anyone working on saiga conservation, making sure that this information is accessible to everyone.

Objective 3: Facilitate learning and skill development across saiga conservation projects, regions, and sectors, fostering cooperation between projects and training a skilled group of conservationists.

Objective 4: Foster new partnerships and strengthen existing ones throughout the supply chain, ensuring a lasting and dynamic impact for USFWS investment in saiga conservation.


Activity 1.1: Hold an inception workshop in Year 1 to bring all the relevant actors together for networking and programme-level planning (including carrying out activities 2.1, 3.1, 4.1).

Activity 1.2: Provide flexible funding to support exchanges between project teams within the portfolio, and enable joint training activities to take place, thereby building the network.

Activity 1.3: Develop an online forum and portfolio-level steering committee for members of the USFWS teams, and relevant colleagues within the broader saiga conservation community, where they can exchange ideas and information and build partnerships for the future.

Activity 1.4: Hold a final workshop in Year 5, where project teams and colleagues in national government and international saiga-related conventions (CMS, CITES) can meet in person, share results and plan new collaborations (including carrying out activities 2.4, 3.4, 4.4).


Activity 2.1: Carry out an Evidence Gap Analysis, mapping the USFWS portfolio onto the CMS's Medium Term International Work Programme, adding other saiga-related projects, and highlighting priority areas and areas of knowledge deficit.

Activity 2.2: Provide resources and relevant contacts to projects in the portfolio, enabling them to bring in additional external expertise to support their activities (particularly via Activity 1.2). 

Activity 2.3: Expand our existing platforms (Saiga News, Saiga Resource Centre) to include sections on the activities of the USFWS portfolio, including a mini-site within the SRC to support the curation and dissemination of briefings and research papers produced by the projects.

Activity 2.4: Support the sharing of project activities with the CMS/CITES Saiga MoU and USFWS, particularly via our Year 5 workshop (activity 1.4), and platforms (activity 2.3). 


Activity 3.1: Explore training needs among partners, opportunities to share resources to provide training, and a plan for training provision over the project timeframe.

Activity 3.2: Provide additional resources and opportunities for training and capability-building for project teams, based on their needs priorities (via Activity 1.2).

Activity 3.3: Working with project teams, and using our platforms (Activity 1.3, 2.3), support the development of a portfolio-level virtual training programme for project teams and others. 

Activity 3.4: At the final workshop (Activity 1.4), revisit the Theory of Change (Activity 4.1), distilling lessons for portfolio-level management of conservation projects and feeding back that learning to stakeholders in saiga conservation and more broadly (including USFWS). 


Activity 4.1: Develop a participatory Theory of Change for the portfolio linking activities to outputs, outcomes and our overall impact, and highlight risks, assumptions and their mitigation (to be done before and during the inception workshop, Activity 1.1).

Activity 4.2: Strategically deploy our resources (via Objectives 1-3) to build a strong grassroots network across the portfolio that will last into the longer term.

Activity 4.3: Provide teams with support for policy influence and engagement with the relevant Conventions and governments, in order to influence their decisions based on our evidence.

Activity 4.4: Repeat the evidence gap analysis (activity 2.1) at the final workshop (activity 1.4) to understand how the USFWS portfolio has filled key evidence gaps, and carry out a horizon scan to understand upcoming threats to saigas and how best to work together to address them.