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. However, Olga did not know until recently that she wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Olga began volunteering with SCA and was able to visit the Ustyurt Plateau in the heart of the saiga’s range. She also had the opportunity to meet passionate conservationists like Small Cat Conservation Alliance founder Dr. Jim Sanderson, who traveled to Uzbekistan as part of the WCN Cross-Partner Visit program. Olga credits these experiences with sparking her interest in saiga conservation. “My parents supported and encouraged me,” she says, “and now I can’t imagine my life without this work.”
Olga helps SCA by working with children and spreading information about the saiga through projects like mural painting and festivals like Saiga Day. This year, she traveled to San Francisco for the Wildlife Conservation Expo, where she took the stage alongside her mom to speak about the work of SCA. She’s currently getting a university degree in Uzbekistan and intends to work in wildlife conservation long-term.
Although Olga loves all of her work with SCA, working alongside her mother is the true highlight. “To be honest,” she says, “I love any type of work when I do it with my mom.”