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60,000 antelopes mysteriously died in 4 days in Kazakhstan


More than 60,000 saigas, a certain kind of antelope indigenous to Kazakhstan, have mysteriously died in the last four days. Researchers are yet to find the reason behind the sudden deaths as more than half of the country’s herd, 257,000 as of 2014.saiga-antelope-death-kazakhstan

The deaths began in May, and the sudden population decline stopped in June, creating further confusion among researchers. The illness causes severe diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and has a 100 percent mortality rate. Geoecologist Steffen Zuther from the Atlyn Dala  Conservation Initiative claims that a bacteria is responsible for the deaths, but it remains unclear as how a harmless strain of bacteria could cause a devastation to the animal population.

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Earlier in May, 120,000 antelopes died in Kazakhstan.

“Since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed,” said Zuther.

These saiga antelopes are caramel-hued with small, banded horns and a unique nose that looks like a trunk cut off at the base. These animals were widely spread across the vast Eurasian steppe, which runs from Ukraine to Siberia, and parts of Hungary. In recent years, these deaths have become a frequent phenomenon, and last year about 12,000 saigas were killed. Scientists and researchers were unable to help due to the terrain and  geography of the country.

However, this time field workers were able to collect samples from the saiga environment, including rocks and soil. Researchers also collected water samples and vegetation, and have also gathered insects and ticks from the animals to find clues.

After conducting necropsies on their bodies, researchers found that whatever was killing the calves was transmitted through mother’s milk. Scientists have now concluded that the massive die-offs were caused by a garden variety bacteria, but only its genetic analysis could reveal how the bacteria evolved into a plague.

Over a million Saiga antelopes existed, mostly concentrated in the steppe land of Kazakhstan, according to the survey of 1993.

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A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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