Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Saiga antelope numbers rise after mass die-off

Shreya Dasgupta for Mongabay, part of the Guardian Environment Network
Monday 20 June 201612.46 BST

Last year, catastrophe hit saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan. About 200,000 of these critically endangered antelopes died in Betpak-Dala in May, deeply worrying conservationists. The deaths, scientists eventually found, were most likely caused by bacterial infection.

But there may be hope for these severely threatened migratory mammals.

A recent aerial survey of saigas carried out from April 18 to May 3, 2016 has revealed that the numbers of all three saiga populations in Kazakhstan—Ural, Betpak-Dala and Ustyurt — are going up. The surveys were conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan in partnership with the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) and JSC “Kazaviaspas”, Kazakhstan government announced on Tuesday.

“The news about recovering saiga populations in Kazakhstan is a sign of hope after the catastrophic mass saiga die-off event in 2015,” Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), said in a statement.

The surveys counted a total of 108,300 adult saigas. The Ural population has about 70,200 individuals, up from 51,700 in 2015, while the Ustyurt population has around 1,900 individuals, up from 1,200 in 2015. The Betpak-Dala population also showed promise with about 36,200 individuals, the results revealed.

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