About 120,000 saiga antelopes from Kazakhstan died off of a mystery disease in less than three weeks. Researchers reported that they did not find a clear cause for the incident that nearly halved the world’s populations, but they are currently investigating.
A spokesperson from the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species said that the official figures related to the catastrophe are around 85,000, but unofficial sources claim that the death toll nears 120,000.
The antelopes started to die off of no apparent reason on May 10, but when the number of deaths hit 27,000, Kazakh authorities notified the U.N. and asked for an emergency team. An international team of vets and researchers reached the country this week.
Experts estimated the mortality rate to 100 percent, which they deemed “very dramatic and traumatic.”
“I know of no example in history with this level of mortality, killing all the animals and all the calves,”
one of the U.N. experts told reporters.
Vets reported that the animals often display difficulty breathing and are affected by diarrhea and dehydration. After collecting and analyzing tissue samples from the carcasses, the team said that there were only three potential causes for the deaths.
All three causes were linked to bacterial or viral infections. First cause may be haemolytic septicaemia a common disease among buffalos. Another probable cause may be epizootic haemorrhagic disease, a mosquito-borne illness, while the third cause may be linked to a clostridia bacteria infection.
Researchers acknowledged that they needed to perform more laboratory tests before pointing out a culprit. But time is not on their side because animals are in their calving season so bacteria can easily affect both adults and their calves.
But before the U.N. experts reached Kazakhstan, Radio Free Europe announced that the animals might have been poisoned by invisible rocket fuel particles from a nearby Russian Cosmodrome.
According to unofficial sources saiga antelopes’ massive die-off was caused by heptyl, a highly toxic mix of kerosene, hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Radio Free Europe learned about the possibility from a space official.
Yet E.J. Milner-Gulland, the lead researcher of the U.N team ruled out the possibility. She told the Guardian during a recent interview that there was no evidence to back the rocket fuel theory.
Currently, about 90 percent of saiga antelopes thrive in Kazakhstan’s steppes and grasslands. Before the mysterious die-off began, the population was estimated to 250,000. In the 1990s, there were more than one million animals in central Asia alone. But illnesses, reckless hunting and other factors took their toll.
Image Source: Real Monstrosities
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