The number of antelope saiga in their Kazakhstan heartland, according to the first aerial survey in two years, has increased from 334,000 to 842,000.

BBC News reported, there were worries the animal species was on the brink of extinction after a "mass die-off" in 2015. Upsetting illustrations of carcasses strewn over the steppes landed the headlines all over the world.

After a series of conservation measures that include a government crackdown on poaching and local and international conservation work, figures have begun to bounce back.

That, according to the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Kazakhstan's Albert Salemgareyev, along with the species' natural resilience, offers hope for their failure.

He added antelope saiga species are giving birth to twins every year, giving high potential for the species to rapidly recover.

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Science Times - Antelope Saiga Returns; Population of This Rare Species Increases, According to Survey
(Photo: Tiarescott - TerraNova, le désert de Gobi on Wikimedia Commons)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes the antelope saga among five critically endangered antelope species.

The Antelope Saiga

A similar Radio New Zealand report specified, the saiga has seen an intense turnaround. However, even with the present boom, figures will never come back to the millions approximated in Soviet times because of the looming threats, which include the effect of state infrastructure projects, as well as oil and gas development, Salemgareyev explained.

The most recent survey, conducted in April this year, presented not just a big rise in the total numbers, but the one specific population as well, in Ustyurt in the south of the country, has made such an intense recovery.

In 2015, EnviroLink reported, were barely over 1,000 animals left on the site, although there has been a big rise to 12,000 in the census this year.

Vast 'Wilderness'

Fauna & Fauna International, the United Kingdom-based non-profit organization, has been engaged in initiatives to shield the Ustyurt populace by forming a new anti-poaching ranger team and using satellite collaring to monitor movements of saiga.

FFI senior program manager for Central Asia, David Gill said, the new census was the best evidence yet that decades of conservation initiatives to shield the saiga were paying off.

The program manager warned, though, against satisfaction, explaining that saiga migrates through huge areas. Therefore, future development and infrastructure project that might fragment its habitat stay a concern.

Gill also said this new data, though, is "cause for celebration." There is little truly vast wilderness, he said, like the steppes of central Asia, left on Earth.

To know that saiga herds are still traversing them in their thousands, as they have done since prehistoric times, is an encouraging thought for those of us who want those wildernesses to remain."

Critically Endangered Antelope Species

The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes the antelope saga among five critically endangered antelope species.

The numbers of species, going by the scientific name Saiga tatarica, have jumped by over 90 percent in the late 20th Century, coming near extinction a lot of times.

Kazakhstan is home to most of the saiga worldwide, even though the antelope can be found as well, in Southern Russia and Uzbekistan.

In 10 years after the independence of Kazakhstan, the animal was pushed to the brink through its horns' poaching, which is priced in Chinese medicine.

Recovering Population to Nearly 1 Million

Recent years have seen measures taken by the Kazakh government to protect the population of saiga, including a crackdown on poaching, penalties of a maximum of 12-year imprisonment, and the establishment of nature reserves.

According to conservation initiative international coordinator Stephanie Ward from the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the antelope is among very few living creatures to have freely run among both Neanderthal humans and the 21st Century's humans.

Ward added, it is exciting to see their figures begin to recover to levels close to 1,000,000 individuals, and it speaks volumes about the commitment of the Government of Kazakhstan to their protection.

The 2015 die-off was blamed on the microbe previously present in the saiga, which turned into a fatal killer because of humidity and higher-than-average daily temperatures on the grasslands.

Related information about antelope saiga is shown on DW News's YouTube video below:

 

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