Saiga deaths in Mongolia.
We have received reports of the tragic death of over 500 Mongolian saigas in recent weeks. This disease outbreak is worrying because the Mongolian subspecies numbers only around 12,000 individuals*.
Initial reports suggest that the cause is Peste-des-petits-ruminants, which is a viral disease that has been spreading in the region over the last few years. Further tests are now being carried out by the Mongolian authorities, and we will share their results once they are confirmed. If this diagnosis is confirmed, the saigas are likely to have become infected from livestock. In this case, vaccination of livestock herds in the region should control the further spread of the disease.
This disease is unrelated to the saiga deaths in Kazakhstan in 2015, the cause of which has been identified as Pasteurella multocida.
Currently conservationists, including WWF-Mongolia and the Wildlife Conservation Society, are working closely with local government agencies and scientists, including the international team of scientists who have been researching the mass-die off in Kazakhstan, to investigate the outbreak, and to advise on relevant procedures to protect both wild animals and livestock. Emergency disease outbreak protocols have been set in motion, ensuring that standardised procedures were followed for sample collection, diagnosis and response.
Due to the dedication of government agencies and conservationists, the Mongolian saiga population, a unique sub-species which can only be found in the Altai-Sayan ecoregion of Mongolia, has in recent years experienced strong population growth and expansion of its range.
More information on the outbreak from WWF-Mongolia here.
More information on Saiga distribution here.
*According to the 2016 population census.