Tuesday, 8 September 2015

How did ‘harmless’ bacteria kill thousands of antelopes?

by Chuck Bednar

antelopeOrdinarily harmless microbes are being blamed for the recent mass deaths of between 120,000 and 200,000 antelope in recent months, but the exact reason why these bacteria suddenly became virulent has scientists puzzled, according to recently-published media reports.

At one point, more than 60,000 of a critically endangered type of antelope known as saigas were killed by the bacteria in Kazakhstan over a four-day span, Live Science explained. Those saigas were all part of a single herd, the website said, and as veterinarians and conservationists worked to help those antelope, they heard reports similar population crashes all over the countries.

Geoecologist Steffen Zuther, international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science “at first we were not really alarmed” since there had been limited die-offs over the past few years – but that changed when more and more of the creatures started to succumb to the pathogens. The “extent” and “speed” of the diet off is “unheard of,” he said.

According to the Daily Mail, scientists believe that the bacteria, which normally live harmlessly in the animals’ bodies, have wiped up as much as 80 percent of the saiga antelope populations in Kazakhstan in a matter of weeks. Tissue samples taken from the carcasses of the creatures show that the microbes somehow caused extensive bleeding in many of their organs.

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