June 7, 2012

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories

Is a Russian spacecraft killing Kazakhstan's antelope? Nearly 1,000 carcasses found as mass death strikes for third year in a row

Scientists have been left baffled after nearly 1,000 rare antelope were found dead in Kazakhstan - marking the species' third mass death in just two years.

At least 12,000 of the country's critically endangered saiga antelope population mysteriously died off in May 2010 and another 450 exactly a year later. Now, a year after that, the latest spate of deaths has spawned a range of theories as to what killed the creatures, from bacterial infections to harmful fertilisers and even emissions from spacecraft.

The official line from Kazakhstan's Ministry of Agriculture is that the saiga were killed by pasteurellosis, a lung infection caused by bacteria that only harm animals with weakened immune systems.

But, as Scientific American reports, some ecologists in Kazakhstan and neighbouring Russia blame the recent landing of a spacecraft from the International Space Station.In April a Soyuz capsule carrying two Russian astronauts and one American touched down near the village of Sorsha, where at least 120 dead saiga were discovered last month.

Mail Online - www.dailymail.co.uk
02 Jun 2012
Location:  Kazakhstan - Map It

'Starving' crown-of-thorns starfish in mass stranding

Hundreds of crown-of-thorns starfish found on a beach in southern Japan in January stranded themselves because they were starving, say researchers. More than 800 were discovered on a 300m stretch of sand on Ishigaki island.

The starfish population "outbreak" was first identified in 2009, when masses of juveniles were seen feeding on the island's outer coral reef.  The coral-eating starfish then took three years to move onto the beach where they perished.

The reason for the starfish population boom is not clear, but the strange behaviour has shown marine scientists what can happen when these slow-moving creatures completely deplete their food source.

"The shortage of food, corals, is a probable cause of the stranding," said Go Suzuki from the Fisheries Research Agency, who witnessed the phenomenon from his research station.

BBC Nature - www.bbc.co.uk
04 Jun 2012
E Davies
Location: Ishigaki Island, Japan - Map It

Deformed fish sent for genetic testing: Unhealthy fish from Lake Athabasca discovered by Fort Chipewyan band members

A First Nations community in northeastern Alberta downstream from Alberta’s oilsands region have released photos of deformed fish that band members caught in Lake Athabasca, and have sent to a Calgary lab for genetic testing.

The fish, a sucker and a northern pike, were caught in two separate locations in Lake Athabasca Wednesday afternoon. The pike appears to have several red lesions covering its belly and a single red lesion running the length of its back. The sucker was found floating near-death on the surface, missing many of its scales.

...The fish were delivered to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre Monday, where biologists will perform genetic and chemical tests on the fish to determine the cause of the deformities.

...This is not the first time a deformed fish has been found in the Lake Athabasca region. In 2010, the band hosted a presentation at the University of Alberta, displaying fish with tumours, snubbed faces, shortened tails, lesions and other signs of disease.

Fort McMurray Today - www.fortmcmurraytoday.com
05 Jun 2012
V McDermott
Location: Lake Athabasca, Alberta, Canada - Map It

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