A separate genus (Saiga tatarica) in the Antilopinae subfamily of the Bovidae family. Characterised by a trunk-like nose, thought to be an adaptation its steppe environment (see Mongabay, 20 Sep 09, link below).
This genus is a survivor of the ice ages when Saiga borealis shared the same habitat as mammoth and wooly rhinos (see IUCN-Red List, link below).
There are separate populations in Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia.
The great extermination
At the beginning of the 1990s the total population of saiga antelopes was estimated at about 1,200,000. Then an unprecedented wave of poaching decimated that population, and brought the species to the verge of extinction. By the early 2000s the total numbers were down to about 50,000 (see Saiga Conservation Alliance incl. graph of population evolution, link below).
Since then urgent conservation action has managed to stabilize these numbers and the population shows signs of rebuilding (see Mongabay, link below).
Current numbers are estimated at 60,000 to 70,000 (see IUCN-Red List, link below).
Poaching is still high in parts of Saiga’s range. In addition a mass mortality event struck the Ural population of Saigas in May 2010, killing 12,000 out of the initial 39,000 individuals. The cause may be an outbreak of pasteurellosis (see IUCN 28 May 2010 and TRAFFIC, links below).