What was a stuffed saiga antelope doing in Kenya? The little toy saiga traveled the whole way from Uzbekistan with mother-daughter team Elena Bykova and Olga Espiova of Saiga Conservation Alliance to serve as an ambassador from a faraway land.
The saiga, characterized by its distinctive snout, is an antelope that lives in the dry grasslands and semi-deserts of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. It has roamed these plains since before the last Ice Age.
Nineteen-year-old Olga Espiova may know more about the endangered saiga antelope than any other teenager in the world. Her parents, Elena Bykova and Alexander Espiov, lead the work of the Saiga Conservation Alliance in Uzbekistan.
The saiga antelope’s distinguishing characteristics are its rather unusual oversized nose and its rapid rate of extinction since the 1990s. The saiga lives in Central Asia, and, following the fall of the Soviet Union, 95% of the antelope’s population disappeared.