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Nature & Environment

Mystery surrounds death of saiga antelopes

By T.K. Randall
May 28, 2015 · Comment icon 18 comments



It's not clear what is killing so many of the antelopes. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Seilov
Over half of the world's remaining saiga antelope population has dropped dead within the last few weeks.
The alarm had been raised earlier this month when tens of thousands of the antelopes, which were already considered to be an endangered species, were found dead in fields across Kazakhstan.

As the death toll rose conservationists struggled to explain what was happening to the animals.

"Itís shaping up to be a complete catastrophe," conservationist EJ Milner-Gulland said at the time. "Iím afraid the animals are still dying and we are not actually getting a final number yet."

Now only a week later the death toll has risen from around 19,000 to more than 120,000 - a figure that represents approximately half of the entire remaining population of saiga antelopes.
Even more worrying is the fact that almost 90% of those affected are female, meaning that even if the species survives what is happening it will be very difficult for them to repopulate afterwards.

Scientists investigating the phenomenon believe that some sort of lung disease may be the most likely explanation while another possibility is rocket fuel poisoning from the Baikonur spaceport.

The mass die-off is a complete disaster for conservationists who had previously succeeded in restoring the antelopes' numbers from just 21,000 back in 2003 to a healthier 265,000 last year.

Unless the cause of the deaths can be found and stopped soon however it might only be a matter of time before the species disappears forever.

Source: Eurasianet.org | Comments (18)




Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by MJNYC 8 years ago
This is so sad. I truly hope that we can stop the deaths.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Lenore Graves 8 years ago
Well that's pretty sad, but as a side note....that's a weird looking animal! Never heard of a Saiga antelope, what a nose!!
Comment icon #11 Posted by Myles 8 years ago
Very sad. I hope they can survive.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Saitung 8 years ago
Yes, it is truly sad, but the sadder truth is that as long as mankind continues to advance in the direction we are headed, there is no way we can save many of the species that live close to us. Lower life-forms will always suffer in the shadow of manís strive for advancement. The fact that mankind needs screwdrivers to survive, means that we MUST continue to manufacture to retain our technologies. The special metals in or cell phones come from the de-forestation of Africa, logging is destroying football field-sized swaths of the Amazonís jungles per day, and the run-offs of our over-fertilized... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Kiltedmusician 8 years ago
This is similar to an event where moose or antelope or something were eating a certain kind of plant more than others and were really damaging the population of that plant. That plant whose name I do not recall had the ability to produce insecticide to protect itself. After a while a bunch of these moose or antelope started falling over dead and the biologists observing them started to investigate every possible cause. It turned out to be the plants. They began producing a much higher amount of the insecticide which killed the protozoa in the animal's guts causing them to starve to death with ... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by BeastieRunner 8 years ago
This is so sad ...
Comment icon #15 Posted by thenIsaid 8 years ago
It's inevitable. We are the cause of the next major extinction event generally, and it has already progressed far beyond the point of recovery.
Comment icon #16 Posted by mfluder 8 years ago
Oh, I'm sure that anyone who may be responsible for the hastening of climate change, or the deaths of thousands of different species all across the globe, will investigate and find that they've done nothing wrong. Just business as usual.
Comment icon #17 Posted by GreenmansGod 8 years ago
It started in late May. When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground. "But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed," Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science. But within four days, the entire herd ó 60,000 saiga ó had died. As veterinarians and conservationists... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Anomalocaris 8 years ago
60,000 Antelopes Died in 4 Days ó And No One Knows Why It started in late May. When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground. "But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed," Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science. Read more


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