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Asia Natural Wonders
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Northern Steppe & Saiga Migration, Russia / Kazakhstan / China

Earth's Natural Wonders in Asia

Northern Steppe & Saiga Migration[1]

 

Height of adult saiga: 30 inches at shoulders
Estimated world population: 50,000
Protected species since: 1923

The Saiga typically stands 0.6-0.8 meters at the shoulder and weighs between 36 and 63 kg. Their lifespan ranges from 6 to 10 years. Males are bigger than females and are the only sex to carry horns. The horns have some value as Chinese traditional medicine and for that reason Saiga are now endangered by poaching. The Saiga is recognizable by an extremely unusual, over-sized, and flexible, nose structure. The nose is supposed to warm up the air in winter and filters out the dust in summer.

Saigas form very large herds that graze in semi-desert steppes eating several species of plants, including some that are poisonous to other animals. They can cover considerable distances and swim across rivers, but they avoid steep or rugged areas. The mating season starts in November, when stags fight for the possession of females. The winner leads a herd of 5-50 females. In springtime the mother gives birth to, in two thirds of all cases two, or in one third, one single foal.[2]

 

During the Ice Age the Saiga ranged from the British Isles through Central Asia and the Bering Strait into Alaska and the Yukon. At the beginning of the 18th century it was still distributed from the shores of the Black Sea, the Carpathian foothills and the northern edge of the Caucasus into Dzungaria and Mongolia.


Reconstructed range (white) and current distribution of the two subspecies Saiga tatarica tatarica (green) and Saiga tatarica mongolica (red)After a rapid decline they were nearly completely exterminated in the 1920's, but they were able to recover and by 1950 there were again two million of them in the steppes of the USSR. At one point, some conservation groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund, encouraged the hunting of this species as its horn was presented as an alternative to that of a rhinoceros. Today the populations have again shrunk enormously and the Saiga is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. There is an estimated total number of 50,000 Saigas today, which live in Kalmykia, three areas of Kazakhstan and in two isolated areas of Mongolia. Cherny Zemli Nature Reserve was created in Russia's Kalmykia Republic in 1990s to protect the local saiga population. The populations of Mongolia represent a distinct subspecies, the Mongolian Saiga (Saiga tatarica mongolica), with 750 individuals. All other populations, belong to the nominal subspecies Saiga tatarica tatarica.

Currently only the Moscow and Cologne zoos keep saigas. San Diego Zoo has had them in the past. Pleistocene Park in northern Siberia plans to introduce the species. [3]

 

You Tube Video

A tribute to the saiga antelope.

 

zoeyandray
August 13, 2008

The World Wonders .Com-visit 1,000 world wonders at www.theworldwonders.com

 

 
 
African
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28 finalists-7 winners will be announced in 2011

 

References
 
1.Flickr-belgianchocolateCreative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/14/2009
2.1,001 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You Die 2005-p. 617- Michael Bright-retrieved 6/14/2009
3.Wikipedia-Saiga-retrieved 6/14/2009
 
Wikipedia  text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

 

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