The trade of Saiga Antelope horn for traditional medicine in Thailand

Main Article Content

Lalita Gomez
Penthai Siriwat
Chris R. Shepherd


Demand for Saiga Antelope Saiga tatarica horn products in Southeast Asia, due to their perceived medicinal value, has drastically impacted the conservation of this species. At the same time, poor understanding of the dynamics of this trade in parts of Southeast Asia continues to impede regulation and conservation efforts. Here we examine the trade of Saiga horn products in Thailand through a rapid physical and online market survey, and via an analysis of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora  (CITES) trade data. We found an active local trade in Saiga horn products in Thailand, with both physical market surveys and online surveys showing predominantly two forms of Saiga horn products in the market, i.e., cooling water and horn shavings (mostly sold as pre-packaged boiling kits). These products are commercially marketed as staple household medicines. Greater scrutiny, monitoring and research is urgently needed to understand how the use of Saiga horn is being regulated in Thailand including the number of licensed traders, potential stockpiles and management of these. Traditional medicine outlets and online sales of commercial Saiga horn products also requires attention. As a non-native species, the Saiga Antelope is not protected in Thailand which makes it difficult for enforcement authorities to prevent illegal trade of Saiga horn products within the country. Thailand is currently revising its wildlife laws with the intention of addressing the protection of non-native and CITES-listed species. Considering the widespread use of Saiga horn in Thailand, we recommend that Saiga Antelope be included in the revised species protection lists to enable enforcement action against trade in illegally sourced Saiga horn products.  

Article Details



Alves, R.R., W.M. Souto & R.R. Barboza (2010). Primates in traditional folk medicine: a world overview. Mammal Review 40(2): 155–180. DOI:

Alves, R.R.N., W.L.S. Vieira, G.G. Santana, K.S. Vieira & P.F.G.P. Montenegro (2013). Herpetofauna used in traditional folk medicine: conservation implications, pp. 109–133. In: Alves, R. & I. Rosa (eds). Animals in Traditional Folk Medicine. Springer, Berlin, Germany, 492 pp. DOI:

Anonmyous (2020). Top 10 eCommerce marketplaces in Thailand. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

Byard, R.W. (2016). Traditional medicines and species extinction: another side to forensic wildlife investigation. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology 2016(12): 125–127. DOI:

C4ADS (2020). Tipping the scales: exposing the growing trade of African pangolins into China’s traditional medicine industry. Downloaded on 5 October 2020.

Chaitiang, N. & J. Sornsakdanuphap (2021). Traditional Chinese medicine law with Thai health system. Public Health Policy and Laws Journal 7(1): 121–138.

D’Cruze, N., J. Green, A. Elwin & J. Schmidt–Burbach (2020). Trading tactics: time to rethink the global trade in wildlife. Animals (Basel) 10(12): e2456. ani10122456 DOI:

des Bois, R. (2019). On the trail n°24. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

des Bois, R. (2020a). On the trail n°28, the defaunation bulletin. Robin des Bois, with the support of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, the Franz Weber Foundation and of the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, France, 138 pp. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

des Bois, R. (2020b). On the trail n°27. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

des Bois, R. (2020c). On the trail n°26. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

des Bois, R. (2020d). On the trail n°25. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

des Bois, R. (2021). On the trail n°29, the defaunation bulletin. Robin des Bois, with the support of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, the Franz Weber Foundation and of the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, France, 182 pp. Electronic version accessed 3 March 2021.

Doughty, H., D. Veríssimo, R.C.Q. Tan, J.S.H. Lee, L.R. Carrasco, L.R., K. Oliver & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2019). Correction: Saiga horn user characteristics, motivations, and purchasing behaviour in Singapore. PloS one 14(12): e0226721. DOI:

EIA (2019). Transfer Saiga Antelope to Appendix I. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

EIA (2020). Smoke and mirrors: China’s complicity in the global illegal pangolin trade. Electronic version accessed 14 October 2020.

Fereidouni, S., G.L. Freimanis, M. Orynbayev, P. Ribeca, J. Flannery, D.P. King, S. Zuther, M. Beer, D. Höper, A. Kydyrmanov, K. Karamendin, & R. Kock (2019). Mass die-off of Saiga Antelopes, Kazakhstan, 2015. Emerging Infectious Diseases 25(6): 1169–1176. DOI:

Frankfurt Zoological Society, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Flora and Fauna International, Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative & Convention on Migratory Species (2016). Signs of hope for Saiga Antelope after mass die-off in 2015. Saiga Antelope: Memorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope. 15 June 2016. signs-hope-saiga-antelope-after-mass-die-2015. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

Gomez, L. & K. Krishnasamy (2019). A rapid assessment of the trade in Saiga Antelope horn in Peninsular Malaysia. TRAFFIC Bulletin 31: 35–38.

Gomez, L. & C.R. Shepherd (2019). Bearly on the radar–an analysis of seizures of bears in Indonesia. European Journal of Wildlife Research 65(6): 1–8. DOI:

Heinrich, S., T.A. Wittmann, T.A. Prowse, J.V. Ross, S. Delean, C.R. Shepherd & P. Cassey (2016). Where did all the pangolins go? International CITES trade in pangolin species. Global Ecology and Conservation 8: 241–253. DOI:

Hinsley, A., E.J. Milner-Gulland, R. Cooney, A. Timoshyna, X.D. Ruan & T.M. Lee (2020). Building sustainability into the belt and road initiative traditional Chinese medicine trade. Nature Sustainability 3(2): 96–100. DOI:

Ingram, D.J., L. Coad, K.A. Abernethy, F. Maisels, E.J. Stokes, K.S. Bobo & J.P. Scharlemann (2018). Assessing Africa‐wide pangolin exploitation by scaling local data. Conservation Letters 11(2): e12389. DOI:

IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2018). Saiga tatarica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T19832A50194357. Downloaded on 1 June 2021. DOI:

Kock, R.A., M. Orynbayev, S. Robinson, S. Zuther, N.J. Singh, W. Beauvais, E.R. Morgan, A. Kerimbayev, S. Khomenko, H.M. Martineau, R. Rystaeva, Z. Omarova, S.W.F. Hawotte, J. Radoux & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2018). Saigas on the brink: Multidisciplinary analysis of the factors influencing mass mortality events. Science Advances 4(1): eaao2314. DOI:

Li, L., Z. Yao & E.L. Bennett (2007). Report of a survey on Saiga horn in markets in China. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

Mallon, D.P. (2008). Saiga tatarica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T19832A9021682. Downloaded on 24 August 2018. DOI:

Meibom, S., A. Vaisman, S.H. Neo Liang, J. Ng & H. Xu (2010). Saiga Antelope trade: global trends with a focus on South-East Asia. TRAFFIC project report to the CITES Secretariat. TRAFFIC Europe, Brussels, Belgium.

Milner-Gulland, E.J., M.V. Kholodova, A. Bekenov, O.M. Bukreeva, I.A. Grachev, L. Amgalan & A.A. Lushchekina (2001). Dramatic decline in Saiga Antelope populations. Oryx 35: 340–345. DOI:

Milner-Gulland, E.J., O.M. Bukreeva, T. Coulson, A.A. Lushchekina, M.V. Kholodova, A.B. Bekenov & I.A. Grachev (2003). Reproductive collapse in Saiga Antelope harems. Nature 422(6928): 135. DOI:

Milner-Gulland, E.J., P. Hughes, E. Bykova, B. Buuveibaatar, B. Chimeddorj, T. Karimova, A.A. Lushchekina, A. Salemgareyev, S. von Meibom & S. Zuther (2020). The sustainable use of Saiga Antelopes: perspectives and prospects. Report to the Bundesamt für Naturschutz and the UN Convention on Migratory Species, 116 pp.

Nijman, V. & C.R. Shepherd (2015). Adding up the numbers. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Nijman, V. & D. Bergin (2017). Reptiles traded in markets for medicinal purposes in contemporary Morocco. Contributions to Zoology 86(1): 39–50. https://doi. org/10.1163/18759866-08601003 DOI:

Roberts, D.L., K. Mun & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2021). A systematic survey of online trade: trade in Saiga Antelope horn on Russian-language websites. Oryx: 1–8. DOI:

Saiga Conservation Alliance (2017). Help save Mongolia’s Saigas. saigas/. Electronic version accessed 24 February 2017.

Theng, M., J.A. Glikman & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2017). Exploring Saiga horn consumption in Singapore. Oryx: 1–8. DOI:

UNODC (2017). Criminal justice response to wildlife crime in Thailand. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 51pp. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

Van Uhm, D.P. (2019). Chinese wildlife trafficking networks along the silk road pp 114–133. In: T. Wing Lo, Dina Siegel, Sharon Kwok (eds). Organized crime and corruption across borders. Routledge, London, 294pp. DOI:

WAP (2020). Cruel cures: the industry behind bear bile production and how to end it. Electronic version accessed 13 July 2020.

West, B.A. (2009). Encyclopaedia of the peoples of Asia and Oceania. Facts on File, p 794. ISBN 978-1438119137

Wong, R.W. (2019). The illegal wildlife trade in China: understanding the distribution networks. Springer, Switzerland, 181pp. DOI:

Wong, R. & K. Krishnasamy (2019). Skin and bones unresolved: an analysis of tiger seizures from 2000–2018. TRAFFIC, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

WWF (2020). Wildlife trade in the Russian Federation. Electronic version accessed 1 June 2021.

Xinhua (2021). Wildlife smuggling busted in China’s Heilongjiang. Electronic version accessed 19 May 2021.

Zang, Z. (1990). A textual research on the history of lingyang. Nanjing Chinese Medical College Magazine 6: 57–59.

Zhang, L. & F. Yin (2014). Wildlife consumption and conservation awareness in China: a long way to go. Biodiversity Conservation 23: 2371–2381. DOI: