One of the most endangered species of antelopes has been devastated again by a massive loss of life. In just four days, as many as 60000 saiga antelopes have died. The incident has left conversationalists deeply horrified.
Now, scientists are gradually unearthing clues to the possible reasons behind the death of almost 80% of saiga antelopes of Kazakhstan within just two weeks.
According to the scientists, bacteria that are known to be harmless are responsible for the death of these antelopes. These are bacteria that normally reside in animal bodies harmlessly, but, in this case, it seems that they have turned into deadly infections.
Even after performing genetic analyses of the two bacteria, Clostridia perfringens and Pasteurella multocida, scientists have stuck to their point that those were ordinary bacteria commonly found in the bodies of saiga antelopes.
These bacteria are not known for causing diseases unless the animals playing host to them have weakened the immune system. In addition, when a disease-causing strain spreads in antelope herds, the die-offs usually take much longer.
According to Carlyn Samuel, a representative of Saiga Conservation Alliance, the body working to find out the factors responsible for causing so many deaths in so little time, the primary disease that seems to have resulted in the deaths is hemolytic septicaemia.
Samuel said that the hemolytic septicaemia in this case has been caused by an infection induced by Pasteurella multocida serotype B. This bacterium is found naturally as a latent infection in upper respiratory tracts of all mammals including the saigas.
Some deaths, on the other hand, appeared to result from an opportunistic super-infection caused by Clostridia perfringens. This infection, according to scientists handling the matter, leads to the release of large quantities of lethal toxins into the intestine of the animals. The toxins then get absorbed by the bloodstream of these animals and lead to rapid deaths.
The scientists have added that it’s not yet clear to them why these bacteria all of a sudden became virulent. Death of 60,000 antelopes in a span of just four days is something that doesn’t happen very frequently. Numbers put up by the government suggests that the die-offs finished in June 2015 and took the life of around 148,000 animals.