Interesting Facts About Saigas: Only Males Have Horns

Saiga is a type of antelope. It is a critically endangered antelope that is almost on the verge of facing extinction. There are two subspecies of saiga (Saiga tatarica tatarica and Saiga tatarica mongolica) that can be found in Asia and southeastern parts of Europe (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).
Saigas are weird looking antelopes, equipped with a large, proboscis-like nose that is key to their survival in the seasonal extremes of their range. Large air sacs in the nose extract valuable moisture from exhaled air and also warm up the cold air as it is breathed in.
Very recently, in May 2015, almost half of the world’s saiga antelopes have died from a suspected infectious disease named ‘pasteurellosis’.
Saiga inhabits grasslands, savannas, shrublands, deserts and arid areas. Number of saigas dropped drastically in the last couple of years because of uncontrolled hunt, habitat loss and due to increased competition for grazing with other species.
The saiga stands 61–81 cm (24–32 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 26–69 kg (57–152 lb). The head-and-body length is typically between 100 and 140 cm (39 and 55 in). Other facial features include the dark markings on the cheeks and the nose, and the 7–12 cm (2.8–4.7 in) long ears.
During summer migrations, a saiga’s nose helps filter out dust kicked up by the herd and cools the animal’s blood. In the winter, it heats up the frigid air before it is taken to the lungs.
Local people kill saiga because of its meat and horns. Horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Saiga is listed as critically endangered species with less than 50 000 animals left in the wild.
Saigas are nomadic animals, best known for their distinctive enlarged noses that hang down over their mouth. The species originally inhabited a vast area, covering the steppes and semi-desert regions of south-eastern Europe and Central Asia from the Precaspian steppes to Mongolia and western China. The species also lived in North America during the Pleistocene period.
Below are quite interesting and surprising facts about Saigas. Enjoy!
1. Saiga is very fast animal. It can run up to 80 per hour, especially when it is trying to escape from the predators.
2. Saigas are very famous for their long and exhausting migrations that take place each year. Migrations start at November and they are directed toward the winter grounds in the south.
3. Only males have horns. They are ringed at the bottom and positioned vertically. Unfortunately, hunters kill saiga because of the horns and there is great disproportion in the number of males and females in the wild.
4. Body of saiga is covered with cinnamon-colored fur. During the winter, coat becomes thicker.
5. Horns are used for fights during the mating season. Fights are very aggressive and they usually end fatally. Mortality rate (number of deaths) can reach 90% during the mating season.
6. The most distinctive feature on the head of saiga is its nose. Long, humped nose covers the mouth. Although it looks weird, nose prevents dust from entering the lungs during the summer and warms the cold air before reaching the lungs during the winter.
7. The Saiga was protected in former Soviet Union and was the subject of several conservation programmes. This is why the population reached almost one million individuals and the numbers started to greatly decline after its dissolution.
8. The horn of the saiga antelope is used in traditional Chinese medicine and can sell for as much as US$150. Demand for the horns has wiped out the population in China, where the saiga antelope is a class I protected species, and drives poaching and smuggling.

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