In 2015, more than 200,000 endangered antelopes died in a matter of days. At the time of the event, researchers believed that the antelopes died from hemorrhagic septicemia, a bacterial disease caused by Pasteurella multocida. Science Advances recently published that this bacteria lives in most of the adult antelope, and that it became deadly because of the strange changes in weather.
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Researchers believe that the deaths were due to a higher than usual humidity and warm temperatures in the days before the deaths. These animals were located in Kazakhstan, in an area that spanned thousands of kilometers.
“The fact that P. multocida infection in saigas … appears strongly linked to high humidity and temperature is of concern going forward, given that a climate change–induced increase in temperature is projected for the region over the short to medium term,”
According to NPR, there were 30,000 saiga antelopes who survived the event. While they’re recovering and breeding, professor Richard Kock believes that the species wouldn’t be able to survive another episode like this. He claims that these survivors made it because they were located in areas that weren’t affected by the high temperatures.
“You went from one or two animals to within three or four days — thousands. And then they were all dead by the seventh day. The animals were showing normal behavior, normal signs, normal grazing and then suddenly they’d start looking a little bit unhappy and stop feeding. Within about three hours they were dead.”
Kock added that these unusual weather patterns could affect other species such as reindeer and musk ox.