The animal on the cover of Java Performance: The Definitive Guide are saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica), commonly known as a saiga. Their most distinctive feature is an oversized flexible nose, which hangs partially over their mouths. The saigas’ noses help filter out dust in the summer, and heat up air in the winter before it goes to their lungs.
Saiga coats also adapt to both seasons: in the cold, it is thick and white, but turns a cinnamon color and thins out significantly in the summer. The animals are around 2-3 feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 80-140 pounds. Saiga have long thin legs, and are able to run up to 80 miles an hour to avoid predators. Their habitat is in semidesert steppes, where they spend their days grazing on various grasses and shrubs (including some that are poisonous to other animals).
Saiga normally live in herds of 30-40 individuals, but gather in the thousands for migration in the winter. Rut begins in late November, after the herds move south. During this time males don’t eat much and violently fight with each other, causing many to die from exhaustion. The survivors collect and impregnate a harem of females, who will each give birth to one or two foals in late April.
The saiga population is almost exclusively within Kazakhstan, with a small isolated subspecies in Mongolia. Though they used to range all across the steppes of Central Asia, saiga have been severely overhunted in the last few decades and are designated as “critically endangered.” ...