According to the preliminary analysis by United Nations Environment programme, it showed that a combination of biological and environmental factors led to the massive die-off which has primarily affected mothers and calves. No survivors has been reported from all the hers affected.
90 percent of the saiga population is located in Kazakhstan.
This has prompted to establish a working group to examine what contributed to the die off so another one in future can be prevented.
At the request of Kazakhstan, the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS embarked on an emergency mission to assist the working group.
Two pathogens are determined as contributors to die off. However, the pathogens Clostridia and Pasteurella are only deadly if the host’s immune system is already weak .
This suggests that there are other factors which are responsible for weakening of the immune system of the antelopes and thereby allowing pathogens to take over the antelopes.
Experts are now investigating vegetation, weather and other factors in the area to isolate the contributors to the die off. So far, only rocket fuel has been ruled out as a contributor by the working group.
Mass mortality events are actually nothing new to saiga antelopes but the extent of the damage this time is far worse than anything the animal has encountered.
The last mass mortality event was reported in 2010 that claimed 12,000 animals.
Saiga antelopes quickly rebound from die offs because it’s common for them to have twins at every birth.
Bradnee Chambers, CMS executive secretary said, “Our hope is that if we can control what is driving these mass mortality events as well as tackle the number one threat to saigas.”
Kazakhstan has faithfully enforcing the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on saiga conservation and restoration, establishing anti-poaching patrols and protected areas.
According to the aerial survey carried out by the country’s national monitoring program, prior to the die-off, the saiga antelope population in Kazakhstan was at about 250,000.