Saturday, April 16, 2016

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Migratory Patterns And Disaster Precursors - Mass Deaths Of Saiga Antelope In Kazakhstan Caused By Bacteria; And RARE "Megamouth" Shark Caught Off Japan?! [VIDEO]

Saiga carcasses are tossed into a trailer following a similar but much smaller die-off event in 2010.  © Uralskaya nedelya/Raul Uporov/Reuters

April 16, 2016 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Mass deaths of saiga antelope in Kazakhstan caused by bacteria

Almost total decimation of Betpak-Dala's population of 200,000 saiga antelopes in 2015 caused by pathogen that led to hemorrhagic septicemia, say scientists

The mysterious mass deaths of about 200,000 saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan last year was caused by a bacterial infection.

As news emerged in May last year of the near-total decimation of the Betpak-Dala population of saiga antelope, there was plenty of speculation but few concrete answers as to what might have been responsible. Kazakhstan's mass antelope deaths mystify conservationists

One idea was that rainfall had resulted in widespread, mortal bloat. Perhaps there had been some infectious disease that had wiped out herd after herd. Some even blamed poisoning by toxic rocket fuel spread around Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.

In the runup to this year's breeding season, which is when the animals are at their most vulnerable to such events, the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SGA) has released the latest thinking on what caused the mass mortality in 2015. Several labs have confirmed the presence of the bacterium Pasteurella multocida in tissue samples from carcasses collected during last year's die-off.

Saiga antelope in 2011, before the mass deaths of 2015. © Anatoly Ustinenko/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

134,000 saiga antelope dead in two weeks. What is the probable cause?

This pathogen normally lives harmlessly in the respiratory tract of these antelope but it appears to have run amok, resulting in hemorrhagic septicemia. This is known to occur in wild and domestic animals in grassland ecosystems, but it has never resulted in close to 100% mortality as was observed in the Betpak-Dala population. Research efforts are now concentrating on figuring out how the Pasturella could have taken over as it did.

Are there any steps that could be taken to minimise the chances of a repeat of last year? Not really, says Richard Kock of the Royal Veterinary College. "There is no practical prophylaxis possible against hemorrhagic septicemia in saiga given the species' behaivour and the lack of a delivery mechanism for a vaccine." If, however, there are other contributing factors that can be identified, "the potential for intervention can be reassessed" in the future, he says.

Prior to the deaths last year, the global population of saiga stood at around 262,000. The decimation of the Betpak-Dala herd means that there are now fewer than 100,000 animals in existence.

"With the saiga's calving season just around the corner in early May, you can feel the tension mounting amongst everyone who works with this critically endangered species," says Caryln Samuel, SCA's administrator.

Rare 'megamouth' shark caught off Japan

Fishermen were stunned to when they saw the massive beast

An incredibly rare deepwater shark has been caught by terrified fishermen.

The massive 16ft beast was snared in fishing nets as stunned sailors were forced to pull up the monstrous fish - reportedly weighing over a tonne.

The enormous deep sea dweller has been identified as a megamouth shark and was caught five kilometres off the coast of central Japan.

The shark was 16ft long

They have only been spotted 60 times since they were first discovered in 1976 - when a deep-sea anchor caught one off the coast of Hawaii.

The sharks dive as deep as 160 metres underwater during the day before rising as high as 12 metres during the night to feed.

WATCH: Extremely rare megamouth shark caught off the coast of Japan.

- Guardian | Daily Star.

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