Temperate grasslands are found around the world, and each of these great grasslands once contained migratory ungulate spectacles that numbered in the millions. In North America the bison nearly became extinct at the turn of the 20th century – until WCS helped bring them back from the bring. In Asia the great herds of saiga antelope and Tibetan antelope dropped by 95 and 75% each in recent decades, while in the southern hemisphere the wild pampas-dwelling guanaco and high-elevation vicuna have both suffered precipitous drops in their population in the last century.
The principle drivers of these drastic declines were a mixture of rampant poaching and habitat loss. However, with populations now small and often isolated from each other, the risk of disease – especially diseases spread by rapidly growing domestic livestock populations – has become a significant threat to the continued survival of these once-great herds of migratory ungulates.
Recent significant die-offs of wild ungulates – including over half the world’s population of the saiga antelope– in the past few years highlight the threat that disease now plays in the conservation of these species. WCS health projects around the world are helping to protect these wild ungulate species from the growing threat of disease.
Banner image of Mongolian gazelle credit: Julie Larsen Maher, WCS