About a year ago in May there was news article coupled with a horrible photo that showed hundreds of thousands of dead antelopes. Specifically, Saiga antelopes, which left everyone, and even scientists, initially shocked. The scene was horrific as there was over ten thousand of them all dying within half a week, 200,000 overall.
Entire herds of the animal were wiped out, babies dying alongside their mothers; the photos were almost to terrible to look at. For a long time, biologists and zoologists were completely baffled and worked very hard to find what could have caused such an atrocity. Well finally the culprit might have been found and the haunting mystery is over. It seems normally un-deadly bacteria suddenly became deadly is the reason behind the deaths. Why did this usually benign bacterium become lethal suddenly? Well that is still unknown according to the Saiga Conservation Alliance.
Overall it is now thought that 88 percent of the antelope population from the Betpak-dala desert died, which is 70 percent of the global population of a species that is already endangered. It seems these graceful animals are even more vulnerable than first though.
There has analysis conducted continuously since the discovery and samples from the antelope from many laboratories have concluded the same conclusion; the bacterium Pasteurella mulocida lead to the mass deaths.
Normally the bacterium does not affect the Aaiga as it naturally lives in the respiratory tract. It somehow became deadly when it leads to haemorrhagic septicaemia. The symptoms of to haemorrhagic septicaemia include shortness of breath, fever, and salivation which are followed by death soon after. This information makes the theory consistent with the discovery.
Scientists are now worried if domestic animals could suffer the same fate. The 100 percent death rate in these affected antelope herds is still a mystery still, leaving people even more worried of the potential and unknown impacts. One theory is the weather played a factor.
The study is still ongoing so more breakthroughs may be made. The Saiga Conservation Alliance want to clear up as much as they can as a new calving season creeps up. In some ways and at this point they can just wait and see what happens now.
Saiga horn was often recommended as a substitute for rhino horn as a means for protecting the rhinos, which already dwindled their numbers even before what happened last May. Now it looks like offering up another animal for death is never an appropriate solution.