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25 Nov 2005

Wildlife conference commits to Central Asian saiga antelope conservation

Nairobi, Kenya A Memorandum of Understanding for the conservation and management of the Saiga antelope was concluded today at the 8th meeting of the conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). The MOU and associated action plan for the species covers the Central Asian populations in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica tatarica) populations numbered over one million as recently as the early 1990s, but have now been reduced to no more than 40,000. They are now recognized as endangered by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). Their drastic decline is due to poaching for illegal trade in horns (for Asian medicine markets), uncontrolled hunting for meat, habitat destruction and obstacles to migration. The primary threat is overhunting.

The agreement and action plan were agreed to by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and formally signed by Turkmenistans Minister of Nature Protection, as well as by the Mongolian Minister of Environment, IUCN, the CMS Secretariat and WWF.

This agreement and action plan will effectively help to protect the Saiga," said CMS Executive Secretary Robert Hepworth.

"Restoring its habitat is a first step to increase its scattered populations. Collaboration between regional and international organisations, government authorities, local communities and our NGO partners is essential to turn todays agreement into a real recovery in Saiga population.

The action plan now commits the governments and cooperating organizations to the recovery of the species populations through Central Asia. An alliance of signatory states, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), CMS, and non-governmental organizations including WWF, and local communities will work together on a number of conservation efforts, including setting up a monitoring programme. These animals undertake seasonal migrations from summer pastures in steppe grassland to winter pastures in desert areas. A regional conservation plan and strategy to be implemented at an international level will now enhance transboundary cooperation and exchange of information.

The action plan commits governments and partners to enhance enforcement and anti-poaching efforts, along with public education. and work with local communities to reduce poaching and illegal trade. Restoring the Saigas habitat throughout its entire range is also a priority of the Action Plan agreed by the governments, including establishing new protected areas. During their seasonal migrations they face serious obstacles such as irrigation channels and roads.

Urgent transboundary cooperation is needed to ensure the conservation of this species," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF's Global Species Programme. "We applaud the action of governments to work together to benefit both the Saiga antelope and local communities who share its habitat.

For more Information:
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
E-mail: jbenn@wwfspecies.org

Eight conference of the parties to the convention on migratory species: 20-25 november 2005

The eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) convenes from 20-25 November 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya, with the theme On the Move to 2010. CMS COP-8 was preceded by the 13th meeting of the CMS Scientific Council, held from 16-18 November, and the 29th meeting of the CMS Standing Committee, held on 20 November.

During the week, COP-8 will address the: review of CMS implementation; 2010 biodiversity target; measures to improve the conservation status of species listed in Appendix I, including projects on the Sahelo-Saharan antelope and the Siberian crane, and Appendix II; proposals for amendments to Appendices I and II; CMS Strategic Plan for 2006-2011; CMS Information Management Plan; and financial and administrative arrangements. COP-8 is also expected to finalize a new Agreement on the Asian Houbara bustard, and Memoranda of Understanding on the West African elephant and the Saiga antelope.

The information shown below has been received from IFAW Moscow office and Earth Negotiations Bulletin:

An MOU on Saiga antelope was signed yesterday. Heres the excerpt from the Earth Negotiations Bulletin:
The plenary convened in the morning for the signing ceremony of the MOU on the Saiga antelope. Following signing by Turkmenistan and CMS Executive Secretary Robert Hepworth, the Secretariat explained that Uzbekistan will sign the MOU at a later stage. Mongolia, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, IUCN and WWF International also signed the MOU.

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