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Endangered Antelopes Dying In Kazakhstan

Saiga antelope
Saiga antelope
ATYRAU, Kazakhstan -- Saiga antelopes are dying en masse in western Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

About 2,000 saiga antelopes were found dead in the West Kazakhstan region's Zhanybek district last week.

Yerlan Nysanbaev, chairman of the regional Forestry and Hunting Department, told journalists that all the animals appear to have been poisoned. An investigation is under way.

The animal was nearly extinct in the 1920s but made a comeback in the 1950s after conservation efforts. But the saiga antelopes' horns are increasingly used in Chinese traditional medicine and the animals are often the victims of poaching.

The saiga antelope is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The total saiga population is estimated at about 50,000. They live mainly in the republic of Kalmykia in southern Russia, three areas of Kazakhstan, and two remote areas of Mongolia.