By Ahmet Salih Alacaci
The killing of a wildlife ranger in Kazakhstan by poachers hunting an endangered antelope has left Kazakhstan mourning and outraged.
Yerlan Nurgaliev died in a hospital in the capital Astana on Jan. 15 after being fatally wounded in a scuffle with three poachers hunting the saiga, a species of antelope that has roamed the earth since the days of the Wooly Mammoth.
Kazakh authorities on Saturday released the names and pictures of the trio suspected of killing Nurgaliev, who died trying to subdue the illegal hunters.
Nurgaliev’s fellow ranger Pyotr Nitsyk told local media that they had fired warning shots at the poachers and blocked their vehicle.
In an ensuing confrontation, Nurgaliev was gravely injured by the poachers and died after being unable to get medical treatment in time, some 150 miles from the capital.
The incident occurred near Lake Tengiz in the north-central section of the Central Asian nation.
Officials have been criticized for failing to dispatch a helicopter to the scene, but authorities cited bad weather conditions.
This is the first time a ranger has been killed in such an encounter.
Though saiga are legally protected under Kazakh law, they are sought by poachers for their horns, used in traditional Chinese medicine.
They are listed as critically endangered by the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature.