Kazakhstan authorities have confirmed around one-third of the endangered saiga antelope population has mysteriously died off in the last few days.
Kazakhstan’s agriculture ministry confirmed Friday that the number of saiga that have died may have reached 85,000.
Government officials suspect the animals, which are known for their distinctive humped snout, may have been struck by pasteurellosis caused by a bacterial infection. International veterinarian experts have been flown to Kazakhstan to study other possible causes for the catastrophic die-off.
The number of saiga rapidly declined in the 1990s due to poaching. At the latest Kazakh government count in 2014, the saiga population stood at only 257,000.
While saiga are also found in Russia, they are in very small numbers.