News

Emergency appeal: saigas of the pre-Caspian region of Russia under extreme threat

18.03.2010

The SCA is launching an emergency appeal to help save the saiga population in pre-Caspian Russia, which is now under severe threat of extinction after a particularly harsh winter and renewed heavy poaching. Your help is needed urgently to strengthen anti-poaching capacity and raise local awareness.

The saiga population of the pre-Caspian crashed from its 1980s level of up to 200,000 animals to around 10,000 animals in the early 1990s. Over the last 5 years effective protection of this key population, together with outreach work among local people, has led to an increase in the population and stabilisation at around 20,000 individuals.

This winter however the population is yet again under severe threat of local extinction. The past few months have seen a particularly harsh winter, of the kind that comes about once every 10-15 years and can kill up to 50% of the saiga population, and renewed severe poaching pressure due to a breakdown in protection capacity caused by administrative reorganisation and funding cuts. The scale of the devastation caused by the coincidence of these two threats is not yet known, but there is grave concern that the pre-Caspian population is once again teetering on the brink of extinction.

Help is needed urgently to support our long-term partners in Russia on two fronts:

1. To strengthen anti-poaching capacity in the Stepnoi reserve, a saiga stronghold, by supporting the work of the reserve Director Anatoly Khludnev (SCA small grant winner in 2009). In particular petrol is needed for the Stepnoi rangers’ vehicles. Patrol duration is limited by the cost of petrol, so any funding will directly impact anti-poaching effectiveness by increasing the time that the team can spend out in the field.

2. To raise local awareness of the saiga’s plight and encourage conservation efforts among rural inhabitants of the relatively saiga rich Yashkul’ region. This will be carried out by SCA Steering Committee member Yuri Arylov, director of the Centre for Wild Animals, through his local NGO “Nash Kraiy” – “Our place”, and will involve a combination of illustrated information materials and organised talks for adults, and activities for school children in Kalymkia (experience has shown that work with children in this region greatly influences the behaviour of their parents).

Detailed budget of work required:

1. Petrol - 6,000 litres of fuels @$1.10 per litre to maintain anti-poaching patrols. $6,600.00

2. Producing and publishing illustrated information materials (posters, booklets, etc.) 1000 copies of each - $2,200.00

3. Organizing and convening talks: Fuel for transport to schools and villages - $1,850.00

4. Drawing competition for school children in Kalmykia. Previous competitions have drawn more than 150 entries and the awards ceremonies were shown on local TV and publicized in local newspapers and radio (providing additional exposure for saiga conservation programs). This activity will include distribution of announcement, presents for competition’s winners etc. - $1,000.00

All funds received on behalf of this effort will be directed to anti-poaching and awareness-raising programs.

Donations originating in the United States can be made through the Wildlife Conservation Network and are tax deductable. Elsewhere in the world donations can be made directly to the SCA via PayPal or cheque.

Any support that you can offer at this difficult time would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

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