A mysterious disease has struck more than 100,000 Saigas in Central Asia. This figure accounts for a third of their population which has been designated as critically endangered.
Saigas (Saiga tatarica) once were abundant and roamed the foothills of Carpathian Mountains in the vast lands of Eurasian steppe zone. They inhabited an area which stretchered from Alaska to England much before the Ice Age ended and when the weather warmed they came to inhabit in Central Asia.
Senior scientist Joel Berger from the Wildlife Conservation Society did not have words to describe the Poachers have been indicted as the number one reason for the decline of population of Saigas. With the fall of USSR, illegal hunting flourished and almost wiped out the population .The commercial interest was to confined to selling Saiga horns which fetched as much as $150 in China.
Saigas have been designated as Class I protected species. The species can be seen only in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The five countries which has the Saigas have signed a memorandum which stresses anti pouching efforts and the memo has helped to raise the population of Saigas Antelopes from 50,000to 250,000.
Investigations are underway to try to decipher the causes of these deaths. An ocular surveillance has been conducted by Wildlife disease expert Richard A. Kock and his team from the Royal Veterinary College in London. Kock and his team travelled to Kazakhstan to aid in the investigation and he feels that It is an extraordinary thing to get one hundred percent mortality.
The investigations revealed that the disease killed everyone in the herd as soon as it struck. The researchers have unearthed two deadly bacteria, Pasteurella and Clostridium although Dr. Kock is not completely convinced that this mass death of Saigas could have been caused by bacterial infections.
There could be a number of reasons, like pollution due to the Kazakhstan rocket program or the weather which can have a bearing on their food supply.