saiga


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saiga,

(sī`gə), Eurasian antelopeantelope,
name applied to any of a large number of hoofed, ruminant mammals of the cattle family (Bovidae), which also includes the bison, buffalo, sheep, and goats. Found in Africa and Eurasia, they range in size from pygmy antelopes, 12 in.
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, Saiga tatarica, found in steppes, grasslands, and semidesert regions in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Kalmykia, Russia. Noted for its large, flexible, and inflatable humped nose, which filters out dust and warms inhaled winter air, the saiga has a cinnamon-colored summer coat that becomes mainly white and longer and thicker in winter. The larger male saiga may reach 2.6 ft (80 cm) at the shoulder and be as much as 4.8 ft (146 cm) long; the males have curved horns, up to 10 in. (25 cm) in length. A good runner, the saiga migrates between its summer and winter feeding grounds in large herds, but lives in much smaller nomadic herds between migrations. Found from the Carpathians and the Black Sea to Mongolia and Dzungaria as late as 1700, the antelope was nearly extinct in the wild in the early 20th cent. The saiga's numbers recovered dramatically by the mid-20th cent. but since then have been reduced by hunting, habitat loss, and disease; in 2015 infections killed more than 200,000, roughly half of all saigas. The saiga is classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

Saiga

 

(Saiga tatarica), an artiodactyl of the family Bovidae. The males reach a length of 140 cm, a height of 80 cm, and a weight of 40 kg. The females are smaller. The nose is long, mobile, and proboscis-like. The males have pale yellow horns measuring about 40 cm long; the females are hornless. The coloration is yellowish above and white below. The winter coat is lighter in color than the summer one.

The saiga is distributed in Mongolia, West China, and the USSR (Ciscaucasia, the Kalmyks Steppe, the left bank of the lower Volga, Kazakhstan, and the northern part of Middle Asia). Its range at one time was more extensive. The saiga is a typical inhabitant of steppes and semideserts. It lives in herds, sometimes large ones, whose size and composition change with the seasons. It feeds on grasses and migrates southward for the winter. The saiga runs very rapidly, reaching a speed of 72 km/hr. In winters with heavy snows the animals die in great numbers.

Mating occurs in December. The gestation period is about five months, and there are usually two offspring. The young lie hidden during their first days of life, since they are not able to walk. Although the lactation period is about two months, the young animals begin to supplement their diet with grass in about the fifth week.

Saigas are hunted for their meat and skin. By the beginning of the 20th century their numbers had been greatly reduced. In 1919 the hunting of saigas was strictly prohibited; as a result the saiga population has increased substantially and now totals about 2 million. Since 1951 licensed hunting has been permitted. The revitalization of the saiga population is an example of the restoration of a disappearing species by means of protection and rational exploitation.

REFERENCES

Sokolov, I. I. Kopytnye zveri. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959. (Fauna SSSR: Mlekopitaiushchie, vol. 1, issue 3.)
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1961.

I. I. SOKOLOV

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