Scientists Confirm Cause of Saiga Mass Mortality Event in Central Asia

Bonn, 18 January 2018 – In May 2015, the world witnessed the unprecedented death of over 200,000 Saiga Antelopes in Kazakhstan. The mortality hit more than 80 per cent of the population in the Betpak-Dala region of the Central Asian country.  According to a study publishedyesterday in 'Science Advances', Pasteurella multocida bacteria caused the catastrophic decline which left 200,000 animals of the Critically Endangered species dead. This corresponds to a 62 per cent crash in the global population within just three weeks.      

Consequently, at the request of the Government of Kazakhstan, the CMS Secretariat dispatched an emergency mission with experts from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Saiga Conservation Alliance. They examined the carcasses and undertook analyses on the ground.

Yesterday, an interdisciplinary, international research team presented a study on the factors driving the mass mortality event as well as the risks of recurrences. Climatic factors are among those that triggered the bacterial invasion which led to blood poisoning.

Since the die-off, the Betpak-Dala population has been recovering. 

In October 2015, CMS held the 3rd Meeting of the Signatories, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, giving all saiga experts the chance to come together and discuss the future of the species.

Via the Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI), CMS works with regional experts to support species conservation - including for the Saiga Antelope, in the Central Asian region.

Last updated on 18 January 2018

News item
Climate Change
Saiga tatarica
Species group: 
Terrestrial mammals