Saiga Antelope

(Saiga tatarica)




Facts about this animal

The saiga is a distant relative of the gazelle but also resembles a small sheep. It is recognisable by an extremely unusual, over-sized, and flexible, nose. The eyes are large with a dark brown iris. There are clearly visible preorbital glands, interdigital glands on the fore and hind feet, carpal glands, and two small inguinal glands. The rounded ears and the tail are short, the legs are very slender, the dew claws are only weakly developed. Males typically have a head-body length of 123-146 cm, stand 0.7-0.8 metres at the shoulder and weigh between 32 and 51 kg. Females are smaller. Their head-body length ranges from 102-125 cm, the height at shoulder from 57-73 cm, and the body-weight from 21-41 kg.

The summer coat is 18-30 mm thick, the winter coat 40-70 mm, The colour of the coat is sandy. Males have a short mane on the neck.

Only the males carry horns, which are amber and translucent and can grow up to 55 cm and have are valued in the Chinese traditional medicine. After the break-up of the Soviet state, funding and infrastructure for saiga management has collapsed. This has led to uncontrolled large-scale poaching for meat and horns. Another reason for the rapid decline of the population was the very unbalanced sex ration. As only males are poached for their horns there were much more females than males, which resulted in a reproductive collapse.

The rutting season of the saiga is in December. The species is polygynous, with males herding harems of up to 50 females. In April / May the females usually give birth to twins. The lifespan of the saiga ranges from 5 to 12 years.

Did you know?
that the enlarged nose warms the air in winter and filters out the dust in summer?


Name (Scientific) Saiga tatarica
Name (English) Saiga Antelope
Name (French) Saïga
Name (German) Saiga
Name (Spanish) Antílope saiga, Saiga
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Russian Saiga (Saiga tatarica tatarica): Appendix II



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Range Southeastern Europe and Central Asia (China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)
Habitat Steppes and semi-desert regions
Wild population The global population is now around 50,000 individuals, down from 1,250,000 in the mid-1970s. Most are found in Kazakhstan (decline from 1,000,000 to 30,000) (Reference: IUCN Red List)
Zoo population 15 held at three institutions reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Saiga Antelope


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Requirement 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Alex Sliwa

Why do zoos keep this animal

Saiga populations have declined dramatically in recent years. Maintaining a viable reserve population would be useful, however the saiga does not thrive well in the Atlantic climate of the majority of European zoos. Very few zoos therefore try to keep the species.