The population of a critically endangered (one step above “extinct in the wild”) antelopes in Kazakhstan is rapidly declining, leaving authorities baffled by what’s causing the deaths.
The Saiga antelopes, easily recognizable with its humped snout, bulging eyes and spiraled horn, are mysteriously dying off in vast numbers in recent days.
Kazakhstan‘s Ministry of Agriculture said the number of antelopes that have died may have reached 85.000.
International experts have been flown in to study what’s causing the mysterious deaths.
WJ Milner-Gulland, a UK-based academic who heads the Saiga Conservation Alliance, a network of conservationists working to protect the antelope, said “it’s shaping up to be a complete catastrophe.”
“I’m afraid the animals are still dying and we are not actually getting a final number yet,” she added. “I’m expecting that number to go up quite substantially in the coming days.”
The d**d antelopes have no wounds that would indicate mass poaching. Experts suspect the likely culprit is Pasteurella bacteria.
“Pasteurellosis is caused by a bacterium that lives naturally in healthy individuals, but can cause acute illness and rapid d***h if the animal’s immune system is compromised, either by another infection, poisoning, stress or malnutrition,” Milner-Gullard said.
Environmental activists in Kazakhstan, however, believe that the government is hiding the real cause of the saiga antelopes’ mysterious deaths. They insist that Russia’s space program is the real culprit. The group repeatedly called for the closure of the Soviet-built Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan being used by Russia in launching their Proton-M carrier rockets that uses highly toxic fuel.
The group traces many of the country’s environmental problems to the highly toxic fuels used by Russian rockets launched from the Cosmodrome.