Here’s why so many saiga antelope mysteriously died in 2015 | Science News

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The Science Life

Here’s why so many saiga antelope mysteriously died in 2015

Weather conditions on the Kazak steppes were just right for normally benign nose bacteria to turn lethal

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7:00am, January 29, 2018
saiga

SAIGA SAGA  Baby saiga antelope mew to attract the attention of their moms. 

Spring calving season for the saiga antelope of central Kazakhstan is a delight for the researchers who keep tabs on the critically endangered animals. During the day, thousands of newborn saigas lie quiet, hidden within a sea of waving grass. Mothers return twice daily to feed them. “If you come at dawn and dusk, it’s magical,” says E.J. Milner-Gulland, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford who has studied saigas for 27 years. “You hear this mewing noise, and all the babies come rushing up to the females.” 

The sight that greeted Milner-Gulland’s colleagues in 2015, however, was horrific. Mothers and calves, behaving normally one day, suddenly became lethargic. Weakness, collapse and death soon followed. “It was like a switch was turned on in each animal,” says wildlife veterinarian Richard Kock of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. Mothers died first. Helpless calves, obviously

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