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Anthrax outbreak may cause extinction of Roan antelope at South Africa's Kruger National Park

An outbreak of anthrax may wipe out the Roan antelope, a rare species in Southern Africa, at the famed Kruger park.

Roan antelope anthrax 2012 08 29Enlarge
Roan antelope at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland. (Erin Conway-Smith/GlobalPost)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — An anthrax outbreak at South Africa's Kruger National Park may wipe out a rare species of antelope at the famed game reserve.

This week the carcasses of 30 Roan antelopes were found in the Capricorn rare game enclosure in the northern part of Kruger, park authorities said.

The Roan antelope is rare in Southern Africa, with only about 100 of them in the entire Kruger park prior to the anthrax outbreak.

“Roan antelopes are some of the rare species in the park, and having lost 30 animals will have a very serious impact on the total population," said William Mabasa, a spokesman for the Kruger National Park.

"Rangers are on the ground monitoring the situation," he said.

Outbreaks of anthrax, a naturally occurring disease, "normally happens from time to time during this time of the year," a statement from South Africa National Parks said.

SAN Parks advised visitors not to touch carcasses found in the park, and to report sightings of dead animals to the nearest rest camp.

Anthrax is a fatal infectious disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria, which is dangerous to both animals and humans. It commonly affects animals such as sheep, cattle and goats, which ingest or inhale the spores while grazing. 

The Roan antelope, one of the largest species of antelope, is found throughout Africa. It has long ears and a distinctive black and white face that gives it a clown-like appearance.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/120829/anthrax-outbreak-may-cause-extinction-roan-antelope-kruger-park