© WWF России
© WWF России

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Till 2006, WWF continued to implement the project on saiga, initiating the work of kids and youth environmental groups throughout the range, organizing cooperation of various anti-poaching groups, and natural-scientific background documents  for the creation of the reservat «Altyn Dala» has been fully prepared in the official format. After that the project was handed over for the further implementation to a national NGO - Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK). In 2012, the reservat Altyn Dala was created to ensure the territorial protection for a half a million of the most important saiga habitats.

But, despite handing over of the main part of the project, WWF continues to allocate small funds and implement some certain activities - primarily the continuation of educational work - and supporting “the network of observers”. This work is to a great extent confidential - because it is built on trust between the participants and coordinators of the network - so we almost do not cover it in our information materials. The results of the monitoring are also not very suitable for presentation - because they consist of data  groups of saiga visual registration - different size, sex composition  - in different parts of the are, in different periods of the year. These data do not allow to evaluate objectively either the population size, or the age and sex composition of the population as a whole. Therefore, the attempts of some other teams to create similar networks in other parts of the saiga distribution were considered to be unsuccessful. But in our case, a comparison of the data of already over 15 years, allows to clearly confirm the total population growth, the change in population structure and spatial distribution - in particular, a significant shift of habitat to the north – caused by climate change and the corresponding change in the state of seasonal vegetation.

A very important component of the activities of the network of observers is poaching monitoring - not only and not so much the real poaching - but potential cases as well : the transmission of information to coordinators, who then pass it to the official anti-poaching teams. This data helps them to adjust routes optimally and in many cases - to prevent poaching.

The network of observers played an important role in 2015 - tragic for Betpakdala saiga population year. Observers in the north swiftly  provided information about the death of the first animal. After the end of the mortality, which killed at least 150,000 animals, the aerial survey was repeated, and the saiga was almost never seen. So what - practically all antelopes died - or they have changed their territorial  distribution? Data, received  from the network of observers in summer-autumn of 2015 confirmed, that there are areas where the frequency of saiga groups registration, and even the size of individual groups is not less, and in some places - even more this year than in the past. It is necessary to concentrate efforts to protect this unique animal exactly in these areas, as even after the catastrophic mortality there are people who continue to hunt them in the search for profit, or simply entertainment.