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Monday, September 23, 2013

Mysterious mass deaths of endangered antelope

In an unusual mass die-off, approximately 3,000 saiga mysteriously perished earlier this month, with no explanation for why it occurred being articulated. The diminutive species of antelope, standing no taller than three feet high at the shoulders, is on the critically-endangered list, due largely to human activity.

A male saiga
These odd-looking animals can only be found in pockets of central and western Asia at this time, with estimates suggesting there being no more than 50,000 left on the planet. If this be true it represents a 6% die-off of the entire species, a disturbingly high volume; to give perspective, if the same percentage of the species homo sapiens were to expire in the span of a few days it would equal the passing of over 420,000,000 people.

The saiga, despite its endangered status, is normally regarded as a hearty species, noted for its adaptability to rugged terrains; only the actions of people appear to threaten its vitality. Since human behavior has been ruled out as an explanation in this case, researchers speculate it was either an unknown viral infection or a serious imbalance in the overall environment which caused this incident to occur. Since the former is considered unlikely many are leaning toward the latter, which has them concerned that these deaths could be be an indicator of a larger, wider-ranging event in the weeks or months to come.

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