Saiga antelope making wonderful progress but is never likely to return to its former numbers

The Kazakstan population of these antelope has more than doubled in the last 2 years from 334,000 to 842,000. In 2015 there was a mass die-off and distressing images of the steppe strewn with bodies made the rounds. Thankfully, the mothers give birth to twins every year, so their ability to bounce back is impressive.

Back during the Soviet era there were many millions of these antelope, but with increasing development in their range a return to those days is highly unlikely.

With numbers like these of remaining individuals, one would be forgiven for thinking that these species is not critically endangered, or perhaps even endangered. However, these terms are applied based on percentage fall in the size of the population. Saiga antelope have suffered a 90% decline in their population at the end of the 20th century.

So long as there is not another mass die-off and poaching is kept under control, these animals are likely to recover, and continue to be the base of an extremely large food chain.

Could mammoth help us fight climate change

Roughly speaking, there is 3000 billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere. This is a huge number, but then we have to remember that this is higher than at any other time in human history. Before humans were on the planet, there were time periods where carbon concentrations in the atmosphere were dramatically higher.

While rainforest hold large amounts of carbon, so do bogs. Having lost most of its mega fauna, the colder regions of the planet do not function as they should, so these

However, the problem is that there is thought to be roughly 1600 billion tonnes locked in the permafrost around the world. If global warming continues, this permafrost will melt and release its carbon stores – increasing the carbon concentration by around 50%.

This is obviously a point at which a significant amount of planet warming will be inescapable.

So what needs to happen?

In the past great mammals behaved in such ways that it largely kept this carbon locked in the soil. There were far fewer trees, vast grasslands often covering bogs.

If mammoths were to return, perhaps alongside woolly rhinoceros and bison the same processes could return allowing a far greater quantity of carbon to remain in the permafrost soil.

Will this happen? Who knows, though with the increasing quantity of carbon known to be locked in the Siberian soil, it seems worth giving it a go.

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