Mass Saiga Death and The Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund

Dogs are my species of choice, but I am interested in all animals and when I come across an interesting, controversial, or thought provoking story I like to share it. And here is a good one.

Betty White’s 2011 Calendar and The Saiga Antelope

Isn’t it odd, and fortuitous, that Betty White’s resurgence of popularity will benefit the Saiga Antelope’s plight? How is that, you might ask. The royalties from the sale of  Betty White’s 2011 Wall Calendar go to support the Morris Animal Foundation . And the Morris Animal Foundation’s Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund supports the study of this bizarre and fascinating creature. The Rapid Response Fund is necessary because the decline of their numbers has been enormous in the recent past and is one of the most rapid that has ever been seen among mammals with a huge number, nearly 12,000,  dying in the course of three days.

I’ll admit that I had never heard of this creature before this story emerged, even though at one time they numbered in the millions in Russia and Central Asia. With it’s inflatable nose, it has to be  in the category “with a face only a mother could love.” The nose is fleshy, humped and inflatable. It is a big help in warming the frigid air before it hits their lungs and also filters out dust when they are migrating across the deserts of Russia and Mongolia. Quite the tool for all seasons.

Photo Credit: Brent Huffman


These migratory animals congregate to give birth, with the females all calving within about a week of each other. Over three days in May of this year, from the 18th- the 20th, while they were congregating for their mass calving,  11,920 saigas were found dead in Kazakhstan. Over 7,000 of those were females.  It is thought that their immune systems were weakend by a very severe winter, combined with exhaustion from migration causing them to succumb to a disease called pasteurellosis. High concentrations of chlorine in the soil and grass as well as the stomachs and livers of the saiga were also implicated.

Fortunately this has been a high profile event and the government of Kazakhstan responded speedily as well as the conservation community.

Your purchase of the Betty White 2011 Wall Calendar will help support these efforts.

Tags: , , , ,