© Zee News
Astana: A massive wave of deaths has been reported among the endangered saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan. Around 540 carcasses of the animal has been found in the country, RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

According to the Kazakh agriculture ministry, the carcasses were found in the Kostanai region.

"Aviation monitoring today (Thursday) discovered a new concentration of saiga deaths with the approximate number of dead animals reaching beyond 400," the ministry said.

Last year, at least 12,000 saiga antelopes died in Kazakhstan, presumably from pasteurellosis infection and from overeating. In November 2010, Kazakhstan introduced a ban on saiga hunting.

The latest statistics put the number of saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan at 85,500. The country spends $800,000 annually to prevent the deaths.

Saiga were virtually exterminated in the 1920s but then their numbers increased in the 1950s. The animals mostly became endangered because of hunting and the high demand for their horns in traditional Chinese medicine.

Saiga are also found in Russia's Kalmykia region and in Mongolia.