Searching for Saiga



The Saiga have a specific season and process for reproduction. Towards the end of November males began to gather a harem of females that they take control of and guard protectively from other males in their species. This group of around 5-15 females that is gathered and controlled by the male is called a harem (EDGE 2006). Mating season then begins in December and lasts throughout the month of January.

The mating season for the Saiga is commonly referred to as the “rutting season” (Lushchekin, 2007). During these months males fiercely protect their group of females fighting aggressively with other males that are in the surrounding area. Males also tend to eat very little during this season and up to 90 percent of males will die from lack of nutrients and over-exertion (Lushchekin, 2007).

The reproductive season or rutting season is when the Saiga populations migrate to desert areas with lower levels of snow that still have enough vegetation to sustain them during those months. In April, though, the groups of Saiga make the migration back to their initial habitat in the dry steppes.
Along this migration back is when the females give birth to their young. Groups of females work to find a suitable place to birth their young and tend to have either one or two calves at a time. Twins are more common and this helps with the growth and expansion of the population. After giving birth females stay with their young for a few days until they are fit to walk. They then continue on the journey of migrating back to their primary habitat to join the rest of the males in the herd.

Gestation for a female Saiga lasts for about 140 days, or about 4.5 months, and all of the females in a herd give birth within the same period of time, between the end of March and the beginning of April. Most females give birth to one single calf the first time they have young, and in the following years it is quite common for most females to give birth to twins.

Female Saiga reach sexual maturity much quicker than males. It takes females between eight to twelve months to reach maturity while males, on the other hand, take about twenty months to reach sexual maturity (Schaffner, 2001). This factor, that females mature much quicker, allows them to reproduce at a younger age and it also contributes to the ability for populations to expand quickly in suitable conditions.

However, just because females mature faster and therefore reproduce at an earlier age than males does not mean that the population can rapidly expand without significant numbers of males present. It has been recently discovered that even though one male can inseminate multiple females there is a direct correlation between the decreases in the number of males in the population to the overall decline in the total population of Saiga worldwide (Milner-Gulland, 2003). The male population of Saiga are declining, because they are being hunted for their horns which are thought to have therapeutic purposes in Chinese medicine (Milner-Gulland, 2003). Therefore, through research, it can be concluded that male Saiga play a vital role in the ability of the population as a whole to reproduce and expand.


To discover ways that the Saiga interacts with other organisms visit our interactions page, or refer back to the home page.

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