|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|
|Species Type||True Antelope|
|Lifespan||6 - 10 years|
|Reproduction||Sexual; give live birth|
|Average Height||0.6–0.8 m (2 ft 0 in–2 ft 7 in) at the shoulder|
|Average Weight||36 - 63 kg (79 - 139 lb)|
The saiga (Saiga tatarica) is a critically endangered antelope which originally inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppe zone from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and Caucasus into Dzungaria and Mongolia. They also lived in North America during the Pleistocene. Today, the nominate subspecies (S. t. tatarica) is only found in one location in Russia (steppes of the northwest Precaspian region) and three areas in Kazakhstan (the Ural, Ustiurt and Betpak-dala populations). A proportion of the Ustiurt population migrates south to Uzbekistan and occasionally Turkmenistan in winter. It is extinct in China and southwestern Mongolia. The Mongolian subspecies (S. t. mongolica) is found only in western Mongolia. Some sources consider the Mongolian subspecies to be a distinct species, the Mongolian saiga (Saiga borealis).
The saiga typically stands 0.6–0.8 m (2 ft 0 in–2 ft 7 in) at the shoulder and weighs between 36 and 63 kg (79 and 139 lb). The horned males are larger than the hornless females. Their lifespans range from 6 to 10 years. The saiga is recognizable by an extremely unusual, over-sized, flexible nose structure, the proboscis. During summer migrations the saigas' nose helps filter out dust kicked up by the herd and heats up the animals blood. In the winter it heats up the frigid air before it is taken to the lungs.
Habitat and behavior
Saigas form very large herds that graze in semideserts, steppes, grasslands and possibly open woodlands eating several species of plants, including some that are poisonous to other animals. They can cover considerable distances and swim across rivers, but they avoid steep or rugged areas. The mating season starts in November, when stags fight for the possession of females. The winner leads a herd of five to 50 females. In springtime, the mothers give birth to two (in two thirds of all cases) or one single foal.
During the last Ice Age, the saiga ranged from the British Isles through Central Asia and the Bering Strait into Alaska and Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories. By the classical age they were apparently considered a characteristic animal of Scythia. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was still distributed from the shores of the Black Sea, the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and the northern edge of the Caucasus into Dzungaria and Mongolia.