February 24, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Saiga Antelope

Salutations...


I am the Saiga Antelope.
And yes my nose does totally
rule, thanks for noticing.

In just one decade Earth lost half of it's population of Saiga antelope. One of the most rapid and dramatic decreases of a large mammal population ever seen, the saiga population of over one million plummeted to 50,000 in just ten years. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a combination of increased poaching and breakdown in law enforcement set the stage for this rapid decline.

Saiga sport a rather unusual nose. The saiga's probocsis is it's own unique and glorious beast. Here are some saiga nose facts from EDGE:

"The nose has a unique internal structure: the bones are greatlydeveloped and convoluted, and the long nostrils contain numerous hairs,glands and mucous tracts. These structures are thought to beadaptations for warming and moistening inhaled air during the winter,filtering out airborne dust during the dry summer migrations, andacting as counter-current heat exchange mechanisms."

That stately nose isn't the saiga's only fashion statement. Their white, woolly, winter coat changes to a shorter, toasty buff color in summer. Adult males sport heavily ridged horns.

The saiga is the only surviving representative of its genus. The closely related Saiga borealis became extinct during the Pleistocene.

Threats to the Saiga include poaching of the males for their horns (often for Chinese medicine) and habitat destruction along their migration routes.

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