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News: September 2010

UZBEKISTAN AND KAZAKHSTAN TO PROTECT SAIGA ANTELOPES

Source: UzReport.com, 8.09.2010

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have agreed to protect and increase the population of the critically endangered saiga antelopes whose largest remaining habitat straddles the two countries.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov approved an intergovernmental agreement with neighboring Kazakhstan to help protect, sustain and increase the number of antelopes, according to the Washington-based Central Asia Newswire website, CAN.

Karimov tasked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to communicate with Kazakhstan's authorities on working out the practical details of the agreement, which was initiated in March during a summit meeting between the Uzbek leader and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Under the agreement, agencies from the two countries will monitor the saiga population and take whatever steps are necessary to protect and sustain the development of the rare beasts.

Only some 50,000 animals remain in the region, which also includes Russia and Mongolia. During the Ice Age the saiga roamed from Alaska and Eastern Russia to the British Isles.

Some 12,000 animals were found dead in the Ural region of Western Kazakhstan earlier this year. Investigations indicated they died from a bacterial infection that may have been brought on by stress, malnutrition or possibly poisoning. The underlying reason has not yet been identified.

The deaths were the latest blow to the saiga, whose population has declined by 95% since 1995 mainly due to uncontrolled poaching for their horns, which are sought for traditional medicinal purposes.