Mass deaths of rare antelopes stir conservation fears

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan: The sudden deaths of tens of thousands of endangered antelopes in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan over the past two weeks have left scientists scrambling for answers and conservationists worried about the animal’s future. Over 120,000 rare saiga antelopes—more than a third of the total global population—have been wiped out in a devastating blow that the United Nations Environment Program has called “catastrophic”. UN experts have said the mass deaths are down to “a combination of biological and environmental factors.” Scientists have struggled to put their finger on the exact nature of the disease that has felled entire herds, but say findings point towards an infectious disease caused by various bacteria. Any infections have likely been exacerbated by recent rains that have made the antelopes—90 percent of which live on the steppes of Central Asian Kazakhstan—less able to cope with diseases.

AFP

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