SAIGA CALVING SEASON STARTED IN THE STEPNOI SANCTUARY
The end of April – the beginning
of May is a great rushfor rangers of the Stepnoy Sanctuary, Astrakhan region.
In this very period the Saiga's new generation is born. "Saigas are very shy animals. For the first few days, calves are
believed to lie on the ground until their legs gwill be strong enough. -
explains Valery Shmunk, Director of
Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia. - "Therefore, ensuring protection and minimizing disturbance are now priority
tasks for protected areas rangers."
Before the calving period, on the boundaries of the so-called "Saiga reproduction zone" was set up with information boards that notify of the closure of the area for all motorized vehicles during this period. At the same time, fire-preventing operations are being carried out, such as ploughing and clearing roads of dry vegetation. The rangers also conduct explanatory work with locals and patrol the territory carefully and more attentive.
As experience shows, calving most often occurs near watering sites, and this year the birthplace of the Saiga calves is close to the Sanctuary border. According to the rangers' estimates, there are now more than 2,500 females on this territory. At the end of the last week, the first females with young offsprings were seen for the first time. In the next 10 days, protected area employees expect a mass calving phase. The rangers also note that despite the cold and windy weather, there is good news — the sky is free of cinereous vultures, which, among other predators, pose a threat to young Saigas.
According to the latest Saiga population assessment conducted by the WWF in November 2019 using unmanned aerial vehicles, there are about 6,350 Saigas living in the steppes of the northwest Pre-Caspian region.