31 мая 2015 03:36

Kazakh officials discuss connection between Proton launches and saiga deaths


Photo courtesy of mgov.kz Photo courtesy of mgov.kz

The question of saiga deaths in Kazakhstan has been raised at the plenary session of the Mazhilis deputies on May 27, Tengrinews reports. But that time the number of dead saiga totaled 90,000. Now, the figure reportedly rose to 120,000.

The question of saiga deaths in Kazakhstan has been raised at the plenary session of the Mazhilis deputies on May 27, Tengrinews reports. But that time the number of dead saiga totaled 90,000. Now, the figure reportedly rose to 120,000.

Addressing the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of the Kazakhstan Parliament, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Saparkhan Omarov said: "Now the number of dead saiga is nearing 100,000. The reason for this is pasteurellosis. According to our experts, other reasons may also be involved. Therefore, we invited specialists from other countries, including from Italy. They will be studying the problem and the necessary measures will be taken based on their findings."

Kazakh MP Aidan Smayil asked whether the Ministry of Agriculture had a special department dealing with protection of animals. He added that plants in the area could be contaminated and the area needed to be quarantined.

Omarov replied that such there was a department in the ministry and assured that the Ministry would create a dedicated workgroup that would carefully track the status of both plants and animals.

MP Smayil also said that he believed the cause of mass saiga deaths could be related to Proton rocket launches from Baikonur cosmodrome.

"We know very well the trajectory of Proton from Baikonur – it goes over our lands in Akmola Oblast, Altai and so on, where the mass migration of saiga takes place in the spring. And this is the deadly trail for thousands of animals," he said.

A day before, speaking at a meeting of the Senate Committee for International Relations, Defense and Security, the Acting Chairman of the Aerospace Committee of the Ministry of Investment and Development Meirbek Moldabekov did not exclude the possibility of a connection between the massive die-out of saigas and the Proton launches. Nevertheless, he said that a scientific research was necessary.

"There is a pestilence of saiga antelopes. This, of course, may be due to the environment, including the contamination from Baikonur. But the death of saigas, if we consider it in the regional context, it is happening far from Baikonur that is located in Kyzylorda Oblast. The pestilence of saiga is happening in Kostanai, Akmola and Aktobe Oblasts. Therefore, we think that there is probably no direct connection, but we will investigate," he said.

In an interview to the journalists, Moldabekov also said that he saw no direct link between the launches of the rockets and the death of saiga.

“The area of saiga pestilence is very wide - it spreads from Akmola Oblast, to Kostanay Oblast and Aktobe Oblast. These are not the areas of the carrier rockets impact, so I rule out a direct link. I'm inclined to think that heptyl has nothing to do with it, but it is necessary to conduct a survey to confirm it. As a scientist, I wouldn’t exclude the possibility, but rather examine it first," he said.

Perhaps, a strange object found in the area of saiga pestilence several days can shed some light on what’s happening. Kostanay Oblast prosecutor’s office confirmed that a strange spherical object was discovered in the steppe where dead bodies of saiga were scattered.

Askar Syzdykov, head of the 1st Department of the Prosecutor's Office of Kostanay Oblast, said that the spherical object was 60cm in diameter. It is believed to be a fragment of a spacecraft, besides the area of saiga deaths is close to the impact zone of rocket stages, he said.

Initial examination showed that the object posed no threat to humans or animals. However, according to the prosecutor's office, it was transferred for further investigation to the competent authorities.

Two similar spherical objects were found in West Kazakhstan Oblast in 2009. Local villagers said that sparks of various colors were raining from the objects during their fall. When the objects cooled down, the villagers approached them. The two also were about 60cm in diameter and had a small opening on one side. The material from which the objects were made was very hard. The color of the objects was silvery.

Pictures of the object found in the middle of the steppe in Kostanay Oblast look strikingly similar to this description. No explanation or professional opinion has been presented on these strange objects so far, on neither of the two cases. 

However no mass deaths of saiga was recorded in 2009. So the link between the shiny objects and the dead antelopes is questionable. 

By Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina (Renat Tashkinbayev contributed to the story)

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