We are two zoologists studying behaviour of critically endangered saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica). We are doing our research on wild saigas in Stepnoi State Nature Sanctuary in Russia. This place proved to be very reliable for observing saiga. Several years ago they have put up a hide near a well regularly used by saigas as a waterhole and mineral lick. Now local saigas get very used to this hide and it is possible to observe them at a close distance. Photographic opportunities are very good as well.
The sanctuary is a really unique place. Saiga antelopes inhabit the pristine steppes of this region throughout the year. This is likely the best place in the world to see saiga antelopes up-close. Steppe wolves (Canis lupus campestris), corsac (Vulpes corsac) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii) can be seen at the waterhole. Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus), steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii), midday gerbil (Meriones meridianus), great jerboa (Allactaga major), northern three-toed jerboa (Dipus sagitta), thick-tailed three-toed jerboa (Stylodipus telum), little ground squirrel (Spermophilus pygmaeus), etc. can be seen when walking, spotlighting or using live traps.
To support the sanctuary we are starting a research volunteering project. Very small groups of visitors (up to three persons) will join us for a week-long field trip. While staying at ranger’s station in the middle of the sanctuary, guests will be able to observe and photograph saigas from the hide and record some simple data (sex/age composition of groups) for saiga population monitoring program. There will be no other work that volunteers have to do. In fact, the trip will be organized as a typical mammal watching tour. In addition to sessions in the hide, walks through pristine steppe, spotlighting and live trapping will be organized. Look here for a detailed info about this trip and many more pictures.
We cannot give 100% guarantee that saigas will come to the hide but as our experience shows the chances are very high. Here is a report of a filmmaker who has visited Stepnoi.
At the moment, we are looking for three persons to join us for a trip in May 2019 (approx. 15th – 23th). This is a great time when saiga females visit the hide area with calves and males often fight playfully. Later in summer, it is very hot there and saigas are less active during the day. The trip includes seven nights in Stepnoi and nine nights altogether (two nights in Astrakhan city – on arrival and before the flight back). We will provide full guiding from the airport to airport and oragnise all accommodations and transportations.
By the way, one could combine this trip with some sightseeing. In May-June, there are ‘white nights’ in St.Petersburg that makes this nice historical city especially attractive
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Karina & Andrey