Experts’ recommendations for Saiga conservation and management in Kazakhstan, taking into account insights gained on the field visit to Western Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan's saiga populations are growing fast. In 2023, official aerial surveys showed an increase in the overall population of 45%, reaching close to 2 million individuals. Although the Ustyurt population is still relatively small, both the Betpak-Dala population (745,300 individuals estimated) and the Ural population (1,130,000 individuals estimated) are above the numbers seen in the 1980s when the species was managed for consumptive use.
Currently, local people in West Kazakhstan are complaining about damage to their lands from presence of large numbers of saigas. Our expert group observed first-hand a large saiga herd in close proximity to a village, and we discussed the problems of conflict between saigas and local people with a range of different people including farmers, local government officials and Okhotzooprom rangers.
We therefore find that the Ural population in West Kazakhstan in particular has reached population numbers that justify sustainable consumptive and non-consumptive use. The other populations may also be at, or approaching, that level. We therefore support the development of a Strategy for the Conservation and Management of Saiga Antelopes which involves sustainable use of saiga populations based on agreed rules (including taking no more than 10% of the population in any given year, and that the ratio of males to females in the population should be no less than 1:5 after the
offtake). This management should be designed to benefit saiga populations, the wider ecosystem, and local people and take into account both the biology of saigas and socio-economic factors.
We congratulate the Government of Kazakhstan, and all the people involved (including Okhotzooprom, the Forestry and Wildlife Committee, and especially local communities) on the success of their saiga conservation, and we are keen to support them in whatever way we can in the future implementation of their Strategy for Conservation and Management of Saiga Antelopes.