At one time, there were millions of Saiga antelopes roaming the plains of central Asia. Over time, their numbers were brought down by disease, hunting (their horns were used in traditional Chinese medicine) and oddly, the landing of the Soyuz capsule from the International Space Station (no explanation has yet been given as to why). Still, the population held steady at a quarter-million antelopes until six months ago when 70% of the population mysteriously died.
More than 200,000 Saiga antelopes fell dead over the course of just two weeks. Entire herds were wiped out and the causes of the deaths remains a mystery. Conservationists met last week to discuss whether the mass mortality event was attributed to changes in weather or vegetation.
Scientists will attempt to repopulate the species but without a determination of their cause of death, most remain unhopeful that the population can ever be recovered meaning, in all likelihood, the Saiga antelope will be added to the list of many species that have become extinct during this decade.