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Mass Grave Built For More Than Half Of An Entire Species

After a mysterious mass die-off in May, researchers are only now realizing the truly colossal scale of what was already thought to be an "unheard of" event.

On Tuesday, the New York Times released the above photo, which shows the site of a mass grave accommodating the thousands of saigas who died in May.

While initial reports put the death toll at around 60,000 within the first four days of the die-off, the team of scientists studying the saigas at the time of their unexpected deaths now place the number closer to 210,000 - more than half of the global saiga population.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Known for their large noses and almost mythical appearance, saigas are a member of the antelope family. Unfortunately, only a few saiga herds remain across the world: one in Russia, one in Mongolia and several in Kazakhstan, where the May die-off took place.

Even after months of research, the exact chain of events leading up to the mass death is still unknown, according to the New York Times. Although the researchers have concluded that the wave of death was caused by bacterial infections, they're not sure what caused the saigas to become fatally susceptible.

Scientists hope that with further studies, they'll be able to determine whether the saigas' immune systems were weakened by sudden changes in weather, unfortunate timing or possibly climate change.

Read The Dodo's original coverage of this event here.