What would we give for rhino poaching to stop? Is there a cost too great? What about sacrificing another species?
That is exactly what the WWF did in the early 1990s. In a desperate attempt to stop Chinese from utilizing rhino horn, they recommended the use of Saiga antelope horns instead. At the time, the population was in the millions.
But the spike in Saiga hunting between 1993 and 1998, resulted in the decimation of half the species. As only the males have horns, the loss has resulted in an unbalance of the sexes. With so few males left, the population has continued to steadily decline, with the birth rate continuing to drop.
In an area with one of the most endangered herds in central Kazakhstan, aerial surveys revealed no adult or juvenile males, only females. Time is of the essence to bring in males, as the animals normally only live for three to four years, according to leading expert Eleanor Milner-Gulland of Imperial College, London.
In May of 2015, there was another devastating blow to the species, with over 200,000 killed by a mystery illness in just two weeks. Before the mass die off, there were thought to be only 250,000 left.
Conservationists met at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to develop a five year plan to address threats facing the species, including disease, habitat encroachment and poaching. With the combined factors of nature and man at work, it’s difficult to imagine the species making a comeback.