By David Stern
With its tubular, bulbous nose, it may look like a character from a Dr. Seuss book or the bar scene in Star Wars.
But don't be fooled by its droll appearance: The saiga antelope is one of the animal world's great survivors. (See video: "Ice Age Antelope Under Threat.")
Saiga (Saiga tatarica) are about the size of a small goat—males weigh on average 90 pounds (41 kilograms) and females around 60 pounds (27 kilograms)—and live in the steppes, the arid grasslands that encompass parts of Eastern Europe and most of Central Asia.
Saigas, an endangered antelope species, are returning to Kazakhstani wildlife, thanks to conservation efforts.
Despite their awkward running gait, head down, stubby legs on either side driving in tandem, they can clock 50 miles an hour (80 kilometers an hour) on their long migrations.
Saiga date back to the Ice Age—and they were once as prolific in Central Asia as bison were on the plains of North America. More than two million roamed the Eurasian steppes as recently as last century.
But following the breakup of the Soviet Union, poaching and other disruptions to their habitat led to a precipitous decline: In just 15 years their numbers plunged by nearly 95 percent, making the saiga antelope one of the world's most threatened animals. More....