Saiga antelopes_Andrey Gilev and Karina

Saiga Conservation Alliance

October 17, 2020

11:45 am PDT

Across the steppe and semi-arid deserts of Central Asia and Russia, the saiga antelope faces worse threats than the harsh climate. Over a 15 year period, the saiga population dwindled from millions to just the few hundred thousand surviving today due to extensive hunting for their meat and horns. The Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) protects saiga throughout their range and closely monitors herd health. SCA engages local communities heavily to build national pride in the saiga, incorporate them into cultural events, and teach young people about the future of saiga conservation. Recently, the saiga population has begun to slightly increase thanks in part to the efforts of SCA.


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Elena Bykova


Elena Bykova holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and has over 25 years of experience as a field zoologist. She is the head of the laboratory for endangered species evaluation at the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, and a Co-founder of Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA). Since 2004, she has been actively involved in saiga conservation in Uzbekistan. As SCA’s Program Director for Uzbekistan, Elena’s projects focus on studying the unique saiga antelope and protecting its semi-desert habitat. She dedicates much of her time to encouraging community engagement in saiga conservation and involving government agencies to support SCA’s mission of ensuring sustainable and long-term saiga ecosystem protection.

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Olya Esipova

Project Coordinator

Olya Esipova began working with Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) as a volunteer, becoming a formal member in 2017. She is the Research and Development Officer of SCA’s Uzbekistan program, where she works with local communities to protect the critically endangered saiga antelope. She received a degree in Psychology from the University of New York in Prague and has been a delegate at the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife, Conservation Optimism Summit, and Global Youth Summit. She is a founding member of Youth for Wildlife Conservation, has received a Young Conservation Leadership Award, and has given a TEDx Talk on saiga conservation. Olya is currently finishing her internship with the International Sustainability Academy in Germany and is conducting research in Uzbekistan’s Aral Sea region.

Photography credit: Andrey Gilev and Karina Karenina