Saiga Steaks: Kazakhstan to Cull Thousands of Once-Endangered Antelope as Numbers Rebound
Due to the once-endangered saiga antelope population increasing tenfold, the Kazakh government plans to cull 337,000 to protect farmers from agricultural damage caused by the animal’s grazing habits.
Image: Mikhail Gnatkovskiy/Shutterstock
(RFE/RL) ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan is planning to cull up to 337,000 saiga antelope after the number of the once-endangered animal roaming the Kazakh steppe increased by tenfold in the past decade after a successful government conservation effort.
Astana will also end a moratorium on saiga hunting on December 31 in a bid to regulate the animal's population, which has has now reached some 2.6 million, according to the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry.
Kazakh farmers have complained in recent years that large herds of saiga graze on their crops and destroy their livelihoods. The ministry says the antelope caused some $25.5 million in agricultural damage last year.
But experts warn that Kazakhstan should first establish measures to prevent poaching and other problems that drove the saiga to the verge of extinction in the 1990s.
Poachers kill male saiga for their horns, which are in high demand in neighboring China as an ingredient for traditional medicine. Saiga poaching skyrocketed in the Central Asian country after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Mass disease along with a lack of water and habitat led to the further decimation of Kazakhstan’s saiga.
Astana introduced a ban on saiga hunting in 1999 and set up strict anti-poaching measures to save the endangered animals.