Mysterious Disease kills Rare Saiga Antelopes in Kazakhstan

Mysterious Disease kills Rare Saiga Antelopes in Kazakhstan

Tens of thousands of Saiga antelopes in central Kazakhstan have succumbed to a mysterious and fast-moving disease in recent days. Scientists have been left puzzled by the catastrophic event, which has so far caused the demise of more than 120,000 of the endangered animal in the region in the past two weeks.

According to experts at the United Nations, the mass killings of the rare antelopes are attributable to a combination of environmental and biological factors. However, researchers have so far not been able to pin the exact cause behind the disease’s outbreak.

Mothers and calves account for the majority of victims. Scientists said in a report Thursday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that not even a single animal managed to survive after getting affected by the disease.

“Unseasonal wetness may have been something that lowered their immunity to infection but until we do more analysis we will not know anything for sure”, Steffen Zuther of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative told AFP.

Richard Kock, a professor at the Royal Veterinary College in London who recently returned from Kazakhstan, said it was really extraordinary to know that the mortality rate among the affected herds is 100%.

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Massimov has called for efforts to identify the cause behind the killings in such large numbers. Kock from the Royal Veterinary College in London said that the government has showed commitment to help resolve the issue. Scientists fear that the recovery for the antelope numbers from the recent killings will take a decade.

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