Dozens more elephants die under mysterious circumstances in Botswana

Dozens more elephants die under mysterious circumstances in Botswana months after hundreds were killed by ingesting toxic microorganisms

  • Preliminary investigations into the fresh deaths have ruled out anthrax and bacterial infections, the environment ministry said on Wednesday
  • The tusks of the elephants, found in the Moremi Game Reserve, were intact, suggesting the deaths were not related to poaching
  • The number of elephants to have died under mysterious circumstances has risen to 39 this year
  • Last year, hundreds of elephants died after consuming toxic cyanobacteria

Dozens of elephants have died under mysterious circumstances in Botswana months after hundreds were killed by ingesting toxic microorganisms.

Preliminary investigations into the fresh wave of deaths have ruled out anthrax and bacterial infections, the environment ministry said on Wednesday as the death toll this year rose to 39.

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism also ruled out suspicions of poaching as the tusks of the elephants in the Moremi Game Reserve were found intact. 

The reserve lies about 100km (60miles) east of Seronga, where last year’s elephant deaths were reported. 

Preliminary investigations into a fresh wave of elephant deaths in Botswana have ruled out anthrax and bacterial infections, the environment ministry said on Wednesday as the death toll this year rose to 39. Pictured: One of the 300 elephants killed in Botswana earlier last year after ingesting toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria [File photo]

‘Further laboratory analysis is ongoing. Extensive field and air investigations have not uncovered any mortality of other wildlife species within the area,’ the ministry said in a statement. 

Over a period of several weeks starting in May last year, 330 elephants were found dead under mysterious circumstances near the fringes of the Okavango Delta, one of the continent’s premier tourist destinations for wildlife lovers. 

Conservationists heaped pressure on the government to find out what had killed the animals.

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism also ruled out suspicions of poaching as the tusks of the elephants in the Moremi Game Reserve were found intact. Pictured: One among the 300 elephants killed in Botswana earlier last year after ingesting toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria [File photo]

Locals in the area had reported seeing the elephants walking in circles, suggesting they have been neurologically impaired either by a pathogen or a poison. 

In September, the government released a report that pointed to toxic microorganisms called cyanobacteria as the cause of death.

Not all cyanobacteria are toxic, but scientists say the poisonous ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.

The bacteria live in water or moist soils, which were then consumed by the elephants.

While Africa’s elephant population is in decline because of poaching, Botswana’s numbers are growing. The southern African country is home to a third of the continent’s elephants and grew a population of 80,000 to 130,000 through well-managed reserves [Stock image] 

Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

While Africa’s elephant population is in decline because of poaching, Botswana’s numbers are growing. 

The southern African country is home to a third of the continent’s elephants and grew a population of 80,000 to 130,000 through well-managed reserves. 

However elephants are still under threat as farmers consider them a nuisance for destroying crops when they roam out of reserves and poaching is still prevalent.

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