It would seem that a deadly virus dubbed ‘Peste des Petits Ruminants’ (PPR) is wreaking havoc on a population of antelopes from Mongolia, and has caused the death of more than 2,500 individual animals since just December of 2016 alone.
Image Credit: WCS via NYT
The population in question is that of the endangered Mongolian Saiga, which is estimated to only have a population of 10,000 or so in the region due to continuous habitat loss and for constantly being poached for their valuable horns, which are used in medicine, so this massive die-off related to the deadly virus is sparking a lot of concern for environmental conservationists.
The numbers weren’t always this way; they used to be plentiful, with populations easily reaching the millions, but human activity has really dealt and unrecoverable blow to the animals.
Just doing the math, the disease has wiped out 2,500 of 10,000 estimated living individuals today is equivalent to ¼ of the population, and worse, the death toll is expected to continue to rise through to the Spring of this year. The only saving grace the animals have right now is the fact that the disease seems to be dying away.
"This is the first deadly infectious disease outbreak known to have occurred in the Mongolian saiga," said Dr Amanda Fine, a veterinarian and associate director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Wildlife Health Program in Asia. "In the past, pasteurellosis was recorded as a cause of mortality in some saiga but never with such rapid spread and deadly results. The situation is tragic and widespread."
Experts are on-scene trying to learn more about what has caused the massive outbreak by collecting samples by way of autopsies, among other methods.
The hope is to find patterns as to what kinds of the animal are most at risk, whether it has to do with age or gender, and to find a way to try and protect the species from future outbreaks like this one, as they tend to leave behind a lethal blow to the population.
Perhaps some kind of immunization technique can be implemented that can not only help to save the Mongolian Saiga, but also livestock and creatures from nearby populations, which can help prevent the spreading of diseases like this one.
Note: This video was uploaded in January, and the death toll numbers have risen since it was published.