Monday, September 13, 2010

United Nations and Central Asian Governments Agree in Saiga Antelope Conservation

Saiga antelope

The United Nations Environment Program and several Central Asian governments have recently made an agreement on the conservation measures of the endangered saiga antelope. An international conference was held in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, where representatives from the nation itself, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and U.N bodies assembled under the prognostics of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and agreed to include the saiga antelope in an international conservation deal. Even representatives from intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and local communities attended the meeting. Also, the experts at the meeting shared a report commissioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and compiled by a wildlife trade monitoring network known as TRAFFIC. This report showed alarming levels of the illegal trade in the antelopes' horns even before this year's deaths. The report even contained information on the antelope horn trade from interviews with experts and government officials, along with market surveys in Malaysia and Singapore, where the horns are available. It is expected that the new measures in conservation will modulate surveys and monitoring to keep track of the antelope populations. Surveys will be done both at ground and aerial levels to determine population changes, with emphasis on rutting, calving and two migration areas.

I'm very happy and proud that the United Nations and several Central Asian governments have agreed upon the protection of the rare saiga antelope through some new conservation measures. This odd-looking antelope once numbered around one million in the early 1990's, but later declined to between 60,000 and 70,000 animals in 2006. Threats included illegal hunting of meat and horns, but also disease, habitat loss from overgrazing by domestic livestock, disturbances of oil and gas extraction work and possibly climate change. The animal's population, however, managed to stabilize thanks to conservation efforts. But now, these antelopes are going to have a greater chance of hope for survival from these new methods of conservation. According to Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, CMS Executive Secretary, the key to the success in the conservation of the saiga antelope has been the involvement of the local people in the region. Even more good news is that the local governments are seeking to involve local communities in the conservation of these magnificent creatures. Many people have been living in poverty and suffering from unemployment, which is why they turned to illegal poaching for a better livelihood. But now, it seems that they will be given a second chance and provided a better alternative for their livelihoods and that is combating poaching.

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