12,000 endangered saiga antelope found dead in Kazakhstan
The disturbing and mysterious deaths of reportedly 12,000 saiga antelopes could not have come at a worse time for the critically endangered species which once inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppes.
The saiga, long threatened by poachers for their valuable horns which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, were found dead, bloated and strewn across the area of Karaoba, Janibek, Talovka settlements in northwestern Khazhakstan.
"The official 2009 estimate of the size of the Ural population was 26,000 animals. The saiga is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to a 95% decline in its population size since 1995, caused by uncontrolled poaching in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union. It has only five populations, which are found in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. In the last few years it has been showing some recovery, thanks to conservation efforts. However, the Ural population is the only group of saiga without an internationally-supported conservation programme." Source
A close-up of the saiga’s distinctive face.
The cause of this mass death is unclear and is still under investigation, but preliminary findings have reportedly detected "an outbreak of the bacterial infection known as pasteurellosis, but the underlying cause of the epidemic is still unidentified. The pasteurella bacterium occurs naturally and is typically benign in healthy antelope, and it only becomes deadly when the animal’s immune system is compromised because of stress, malnutrition or even poisoning." Source
Although the number of dead reported rise from one source to another, it’s clear that an incredible number of saiga have died and the mystery only deepens with the strange yet vital disclosure from sources that:
"The inspectors affirm that on May 15-17 they observed some "strangely grey fog" in the above-mentioned area, although the weather was clear. "The external examination of the dead bodies revealed the abdominal distention, foam and diarrhea. The dead bodies were delivered to the laboratory", the message specifies." Source
The mass death of the saiga is being reported by sources such as the BBC and the World Wildlife Fund, but the commonly accepted theory regarding the deaths remains, at this point, that they succumbed to Pasteurellosis and the underlying trigger remains to be identified.
Healthy animals do not suffer from distention, bloating, and foam naturally and without reason.
There has been little to no follow-up reported in regards to the ’strangely grey fog’ present.
How is this being overlooked?
The pasteurella bacterium is only deadly when the immune system is compromised.
Healthy animals do not suffer from an immune-system shut-down without reason.
It is indeed strange that the question of the compromised immune systems of an otherwise healthy herd should not be the investigated. What would cause healthy animals to suddenly be susceptible to the ravages of pasteurellosis?
Humans, too, suffer a weakening of our immune system when subjected to many things; stress, malnutrition, autoimmune diseases, and also chemotherapy.
"There is nothing you can do to prevent your white blood cell count from dropping as a result of chemotherapy. What you can do is take extra-special precautions to avoid any situation that might increase your risk of infection. Because your immune system is weak, you can develop infections from bacteria that are always around but that normally do not affect you." Source
Could radiation poisoning have been a factor in the mass deaths of the saiga?
The history of nuclear weapons testing and nuclear facilities in Kazakhstan is an interesting one.
Kazakhstan inherited nuclear-tipped missiles, a nuclear weapon test site, and biological and chemical weapon production facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Although they dismantled and destroyed Soviet weapons systems and facilities left on its territory, and signed major international nonproliferation treaties, could it not be that something has been left over from that era to affect or harm the land, animals, and people?
And it would seem uranium mining hasn’t slowed for Kazakhstan:
In July 2006 Russia and Kazakhstan (Kazatomprom) signed three 50:50 nuclear joint venture agreements totaling US$ 10 billion for new nuclear reactors, uranium production and enrichment. In April 2007 a number of high-level agreements on energy cooperation were signed with Japan. These included some relating to uranium supply to Japan, and technical assistance to Kazakhstan in relation to fuel cycle developments and nuclear reactor construction.
In 2009 it became the world’s leading uranium producer, with almost 28% of world production. Source
Kazakhstani Facilities Map. Center For NonProliferation Studies
Karaoba, Kazakhstan. Area where thousands of Saiga were reported dead in May 2010.
All this does not begin to explain the presence of a ’grey fog’ that accompanied the deaths.
Has this type of thing happened before? Absolutely:
THE SHEEP INCIDENT
Scott Cianciosi writes:
"It was half past midnight on March 17th, 1968. Keith Smart, the director of epidemiology and ecology at Utah’s Dugway Proving Grounds, was awakened by the ringing of a phone. On the other end was Dr. Bode, a professor at the University of Utah, and the director of the school’s contract with Dugway. There was a problem. Calls had been coming in. About 27 miles outside of the base, in the aptly-named Skull Valley, thousands of sheep had suddenly died. There were some survivors among the flocks, but it was clear that their hours were numbered. Veterinarians were dispatched to euthanize the few remaining animals.
Army officials began drafting their official denial. A few days earlier, one of their planes had flown high over the Utah desert at Dugway with a bellyful of nerve agent. The plane’s mission was simple: using a specially rigged delivery system, it was to fly to a specific set of coordinates and spray its payload over a remote section of the Utah desert. This test was a small part of the ongoing chemical and biological weapons research at Dugway, and it was one of three tests held that particular day. The flight would soon prove to be far more important than anyone could have guessed at the time..."
Some of Ray Peck’s dead sheep. (Credit: Deseret News).
"Skull Valley resident Ray Peck was working in his yard the evening after the tests, but retired early after developing an earache. The next morning the ground outside his home was littered with dead birds, and he watched as a dying rabbit struggled in the distance. A helicopter touched down soon after and unleashed its cargo of equipment and scientists upon the confused family. They quickly collected wildlife carcasses, performed blood tests on the Pecks, and departed. Though they suffered no fatalities from their exposure, the family complained of numerous ailments in the years following the tests. Ray Peck said he began suffering from violent headaches, numbness and paranoia. His daughters — children at the time of the incident — experienced an unusually high rate of miscarriage in their adult years."
Read the full article at: DamnInteresting.com
In what is a tragic and maddening story known as the "Dugway Sheep Incident", the US army covered up and denied the biological and chemical agents testing that resulted in mass deaths not unlike what seems to have occurred in western Kazakhstan.
Though these are simply theories as to what may have been the triggering event that caused these hapless saiga to fall so quickly and in such high numbers, at least they are raising potentials as to the cause of the incident.
The mainstream seems overly focused on the unfortunate ’critically endangered’ status of the saiga and their herd statistics, while not speculating on why or how the investigators are ’stumped’ by this recent event.
And while the explanation may never be revealed, it behooves us to continue to push for answers so as to prevent this type of calamity from happening again.
Mystery over mass antelope deaths in Kazakhstan (BBCNews Video)
Saving the saiga antelope (2008)
Video from: YouTube.com
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