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Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Deadly Virus is Killing Saiga Antelope in Mongolia.

Saiga antelope have been dying over the last two months in alarming numbers in the Great Lakes Depression of western Mongolia bordered by the Altai Mountains and China. WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) scientists working at the site with Mongolian and international partners believe around 2,500 saiga have died since December 2016 in the Durgun steppe and Khuisiin Gobi of Khovd and Gobi-Altai Provinces of Mongolia. Currently, the population of the Mongolian saiga, a unique subspecies Saiga tatarica mongolica, is only estimated to be around 10,000, so this event represents an immediate loss of 25 percent of the Mongolian saiga population. The cause: a livestock virus known as PPR or Peste des Petits Ruminants. Scientists believe the disease affecting the Mongolian saiga was first transmitted from goats and sheep in the saiga range area in September 2016, and subsequently spilled over to saiga antelope. PPR was diagnosed in Mongolia for the first time in September 2016 in livestock and for the first time in Mongolian saiga in January 2017. Livestock in affected areas have undergone vaccinations; herd immunity level is an important indicator of effective vaccination and needs to be well monitored “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 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. Along with the impact to the saiga population, this event has the potential to produce cascading catastrophic consequences on the ecosystem. For example, ibex and argali may be affected and rare snow leopards may suffer the effects of a diminished prey base.” continue