THE UNEP CMS expert mission is in Kazakhstan to help identify the fundamental drivers of the mass mortality of Saiga Antelopes
A dramatic death of endangered Saiga Antelopes happened in Kazakhstan for unknown reasons.
This is a strange story. A dramatic number of endangered Saiga Antelopes just died. The United Nations reports that more than 120,000 Saiga Antelopes Died in 120,000 Kazakhstan. This is a third of the entire population of Saiga Antelopes.
Photo Credit: Seilov
The exact reason why this mass death is unknown. Preliminary analysis says that a combination of environmental and biological factors is contributing to this catastrophic event.
Erlan Nysynbaev, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan stated “This loss is a huge blow for saiga conservation in Kazakhstan and in the world, given that 90% of the global saiga population is found in our country. It is very painful to witness this mass mortality. We established a working group that includes all relevant experts, including international ones, and are determined to identify the causes and undertake all possible efforts to avoid such events in the future.”
At the request of Kazakhstan, the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) despatched an emergency mission last week with experts from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom and the Food and Agriculture Organization to assist on the ground with post-mortem examination, analysis and to contribute to the working group.
CMS Executive Secretary, Bradnee Chambers said “Authorities in Kazakhstan are responding quickly to this disaster and are working hard to solve the mystery behind this mass saiga die-off. I am pleased that the international expert mission we were able to send, at very short notice, is now contributing to these efforts”.
According to information received from the members of the CMS expert mission, it is becoming clear that two secondary opportunistic pathogens, specifically Pasteurella and Clostridia, are contributing to the rapid and wide-spread die-off. However, the hunt for the fundamental drivers of the mass mortality continues since these bacteria are only lethal to an animal if its immune system is already weakened.
“Experts are working around the clock to investigate the impacts in terms of wildlife health of the relatively high rainfall observed this spring, the composition of the vegetation and other potential trigger factors including a suite of viruses. None of the data analyzed to date indicates that rocket fuel is related to the mass die-off. Fresh laboratory results are becoming available every day,” says Aline Kühl-Stenzel, Terrestrial Species Officer at the UNEP/CMS Secretariat, who has been supporting the expert mission remotely from the Convention’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany.
Via this UN report.
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