A group of researchers and veterinarians tried to come up with an explanation for the mysterious and extremely worrying death of about 60,000 antelopes. The dog-sized animals died in four days and experts report that this is not the only case of mass die-offs similar to the one reported in May this year.
“But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmedThe extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species,” said lead study author and geoecologist Steffen Zuther, who went to Kazakhstan to monitor the herds.
They started looking for clues that could tell them what could have caused the sudden death of so many animals in the same place. Afterwards, they heard about more such cases that were occurring in other parts of the country.
Last year, the number of dead saigas only reached 12,000, but unfortunately, there were no scientists around to determine the cause of death.
These animals are already regarded as endangered species, according to the list issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are not very large, but they play a very important part in the ecology of the environment because they help recycle nutrients by decomposing organic matter. If they didn’t do it, these nutrients would be frozen during the harsh winter and much harder to break down.
The experts came to the conclusion that bacteria might have been responsible for the very fast destruction of whole herds. However, the microbe that they scrutinized is not believed to be dangerous in any way.
The researchers collected samples from the environment the animals lived in. These included the water the saiga drank and the ground they walked on, but also samples from the dead antelope’s tissue. They also noted the animals’ behavior before they died.
It seems that the females were the ones that first perished, followed by their calves. This means that the bacteria must have been spread through the milk.
After a careful analysis of the dead saiga tissue, it was revealed that their death might be linked to Pasteurella and Clostridia bacteria, which are usually not harmful. Nevertheless, they seem to have caused massive internal bleeding in the saiga’s organs.
Another theory refers to the animals’ inability to adjust to the rapid changes that take place in the environment, being vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
Image Source: news.yahoo