There’s a reason why rare and endangered species are protected so heavily — because once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. But nature will still try its hardest to run its course, even if it means putting one of its species on the brink. For one reason or another, that’s the case with the saiga antelope; tens of thousands of them have turned up dead, and no one can explain why.
The count of saigas in Kazakhstan was pinned at 257,000 in 2014 — but now the number has dropped by more than half, with a herd of 60,000 dead in four days’ time. The current search had field workers investigating their habitats, including soil, water, and even insects; certain bacteria may have caused internal bleeding, but those same bacteria are naturally found inside them and tend to cause problems if they have weaker immune systems.
It’s bad enough that these antelopes are dying, but even worse that herds are dying simultaneously despite the distance between them. They’re important parts of their ecosystem, so preventing their extinction — even if it’s from an unknown threat — is a high priority.