New Hope For the Prehistoric Saiga Antelope – A Species That Once Roamed with the Woolly Mammoth
Saiga – Facing Disease and Poaching – Stays on Appendix II But With Zero Quota from the Wild – Meaning No International Trade of Saiga Horn from the Wild
Today’s Vote in Committee Expected to be Approved by Full Plenary In Coming Days
“Today’s vote helps to ensure that the prehistoric saiga antelope – which once roamed with the woolly mammoth -- will roam across Central Asia for generations to come,” said Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba, WCS Mongolia Director
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GENEVA (August 22, 2019) – The following statement was issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society concerning the critically endangered saiga antelope staying on Appendix II but now with a zero quota, helping to ensure that international commercial trade will not contribute to further declines of the species and will help range states and other parties combat illegal trade.
The committee vote keeps saiga on Appendix II of CITES, but now with a zero quota from the wild. That means that no horn from wild saigas can be in international trade. The full CITES plenary is expected to approve this in the coming days.
The proposal, which was amended from a pure Appendix I proposal to address concerns of several range and other countries, was adopted by consensus.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is currently meeting for its 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) August 17-28 in Geneva. The saiga is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered and is vital to the ecosystem of Central Asia, including Mongolia’s steppe.
Said Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba, WCS Mongolia Director:
“Today’s vote helps to ensure that the prehistoric saiga antelope – which once roamed with the woolly mammoth -- will roam across Central Asia for generations to come.
“We thank the governments of Mongolia and the United States for championing efforts for saiga antelope, vital to the ecosystem of the Mongolian steppe.
“The saiga antelope has been roaming Central Asia, in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan since prehistoric times.
“The saiga antelope is key to ensuring the health of the Mongolian steppe and is an important symbol to the culture and history of the peoples of Central Asia.
“We cannot be the generation to allow this ancient species to go extinct. The saiga antelope has faced millennia of the Earth’ changes and we have the responsibility to ensure their survival.
“Mongolian saiga have undergone a significant mass mortality from December 2016 through March 2017 due to the Peste des Petits Ruminants virus that killed more than 60 percent of the population within 4-month period. With our total saiga population remaining less than 3,000 in Mongolia, we are deeply concerned with the commercial trade plans of other saiga range states, at a period while the Mongolian saiga population is under critical threat of disease. The commercial trade will create high demand for saiga horn and thus may lead to uncontrolled poaching and wildlife trafficking which may wipe out the remaining saiga population of less than 3,000 in Mongolia. Today’s vote will end this harmful trade and will support the vital protection for the Saiga antelopes at this critical moment.
“The species was formerly widespread numbering well over 1 million individuals as recently as the 1970s. However, it repeatedly experienced drastic declines in the late 20th century, reaching an all-time low of about 50,000 animals in the early 2000s.
“There has been some rebounding of some saiga populations since then, but the species is still threatened by poaching and illegal trade; the males’ horn is used in traditional medicine in China and Southeast Asia. In addition, it is subject to wild fluctuations due to disease outbreaks, with as many as 200,000 dying in a single outbreak over a three-week period in 2015.
“We thank all the countries at the CITES Cop18 who supported this new trade protection for the saiga antelope.”
WCS and CITES
WCS is a strong supporter of CITES, has staff who have attended all meetings of the Conference of the Parties since CoP7 in 1989, and will be represented by many international wildlife and policy experts at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Geneva, Switzerland. WCS views on the proposals to amend the Appendices are based on the CITES listing criteria, the best available scientific and technical information, and information from our field and country programs around the world. To learn more about WCS recommendations go HERE. WCS’s ‘on-the-ground’ presence across much of the globe enables it to address multiple aspects of wildlife exploitation and trade, including wildlife crime, at all points along the trade chain in source, transit and consumer countries.