Tags: 60000 | antelopes | died | bacteria | disease

Why Did 60,000 Antelope Die in 4 Days?

Why Did 60,000 Antelope Die in 4 Days?
Saiga antelope with a baby grazes next to carcasses of dead antelopes lying on a field, in the Zholoba area of the Kostanay region, Kazakhstan, in this handout photo provided on May 20, 2015 by Kazakhstan's Ministry of Agriculture. (Kazakhstan's Ministry of Agriculture/Handout/Reuters)

By    |   Friday, 04 September 2015 10:43 AM

The mystery of what killed 60,000 endangered antelope in four days earlier this summer may be solved as scientists have determined a bacteria that had been harmless in the past could have caused diseases to proliferate.

Scientists are unclear about what caused the bacteria — Pasteurella multocida and Clostridia perfringens — to become deadly for saiga antelope in Kazakhstan, where as many as 200,000 of the population were wiped out in just a few weeks, the Daily Mail said.

The devastating deaths caused by the bacteria that normally live in the saiga antelope defy explanation, as "they do not normally cause disease in the animals unless they have weakened immune systems and if a disease-causing strain was spreading in the herds, the die-offs should have taken much longer," the Mail reported.

The die-off of 60,000 antelope in just four days in May did not fit any conventional epidemiology of disease.

"The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species," geocologist Stephan Zuther told LiveScience. "It's really unheard of."

Although the speed of the antelope deaths may be significant, it is not the first time for a massive die-off of the animals. Zuther said that 400,000 saiga antelope died in 1988, but it was not thoroughly investigated. It was listed as caused by Pasteurellosis, a disease caused by Pasteurella.

The saiga antelope are an essential part of the steppe ecology, Zuther said, providing food for predators there and their grazing also helps to break down organic matter.

Zuther speculated to the science site that a cold winter and then a wet spring could have allowed the bacteria to easily spread among the animals, but that's not really an unusual situation.

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TheWire
The mystery of what killed 60,000 endangered antelope in four days earlier this summer may be solved as scientists have determined a bacteria that had been harmless in the past could have caused diseases to proliferate.
60000, antelopes, died, bacteria, disease
301
2015-43-04
Friday, 04 September 2015 10:43 AM
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