The unsolved mystery of Botswana’s elephant deaths

Investigation on: A dead elephant lying in the bush in Okavango Delta, Botswana.  

Botswana’s government says it still doesn’t know what caused the deaths of hundreds of elephants in recent weeks, but testing continues.

Poaching and anthrax have been ruled out as the likely cause. Other possibilities being examined include a novel virus and poisoning. The investigation involves help from laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Britain and the U.S.

“While there has not been any indication of fresh carcasses or signs that the mortality has spread beyond the initial area of concern, the district team on the ground will continue to monitor the situation, remove ivory from carcasses and take them to safe custody as well as destroy carcasses that are close to the villages and human settlements,” the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Oduetse Koboto, told diplomats on Saturday. The investigations, including an aerial survey, are expected to be completed this week.

281 carcasses examined

Botswana’s National Veterinary Laboratory has not been able to establish the causes of death despite examining 281 of the elephant carcasses found in the popular Okavango Delta area of the country’s north. This is “one of the biggest disasters to impact elephants this century, and right in the middle of one of Africa’s top tourism destinations,” said Mark Hilley, director of conservation group National Park Rescue.

Botswana has the world’s highest population of elephants with more than 1,56,000 counted in a 2013 aerial survey in the north.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 4:44:20 AM |

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