Disease kills endangered antelopes in Kazakhstan

Disease has killed about 15 percent of the saiga antelope population in Kazakhstan over the past week in the biggest threat to the endangered species since poachers decimated their numbers in the 1990s.

Disease kills endangered antelopes in Kazakhstan

Disease has killed about 15 percent of the saiga antelope population in Kazakhstan over the past week in the biggest threat to the endangered species since poachers decimated their numbers in the 1990s.

Kazakhstan has launched an investigation into an outbreak of pasteurellosis, a disease affecting the lungs, after nearly 12,000 saiga antelope died within a 4,500-hectare (17-sq-mile) area of western Kazakhstan, the Emergencies Ministry said on Friday.

"It's a major blow to the saiga population," Olga Pereladova, director of the WWF's Central Asia programme, told Reuters by telephone from Moscow.

The saiga antelope lives mainly on the steppe of Kazakhstan, western Mongolia and the Russian region of Kalmykia. Kazakhstan's saiga antelope population was around 81,000 last year, before the epidemic, Agriculture Ministry data shows.

Overall saiga numbers began to fall from above 1 million after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Poachers killed large numbers for their horns, which are used in Chinese medicine.

Pereladova said an extremely cold winter, followed by an unusually hot spring, were likely to have contributed to the outbreak of disease this month. She said more than half of the saiga living in the Ural region had died.

"For the Ural saiga population, this is a catastrophe," she said.

Veterinarians and emergency officials are burning the carcasses and organising quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the disease, a Kazakh Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman said.

Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Mayıs 2010, 17:27
Add Comment