Take a deer’s body, attach a camel’s head, add a tapir’s snout, and you have a saiga–Central Asia’s odd-ball antelope with the enormous schnoz. Unfortunately, these animals are as endangered as they are strange looking. The problem is over-hunting. Now, according to a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) study, the saiga’s migration routes are in jeopardy as well.
Conservationists tracked saiga with GPS collars in Mongolia and discovered a “migration bottleneck”–a narrow corridor of habitat that connects two populations. Local people herding livestock and increased traffic from trucks and motorcycles are pinching the saiga’s three-mile-wide corridor closed.
“Like other species of the steppes and deserts, saiga have avoided extinction by being able to migrate long distances as their habitat changed over time,” said Dr. Joel Berger, a WCS conservationist and professor at the University of Montana. “Given the uncertainty of how global climate change might affect specific regions, and how and where species might persist, prudent conservation strategies must take into account the movements of highly mobile species like saiga.” The Mongolian government, which participated in the study, has already expressed interest in protecting the migration corridor.