Botswana: More than 360 elephants die from mysterious causes

Botswana: More than 360 elephants die from mysterious causes

Some carcasses were found gathered around holes, while others appeared to have died “falling on their faces”, according to Niall McCann, director of maintenance at the UK’s National Park Rescue charity.

Living elephants that look close look physically weak and someone was walking in circles, unable to change direction, observers said. Other species in the area do not appear to have been affected by what struck the elephants.

The Botswana government is testing samples of dead elephants, but has not yet determined the cause of death.

The unusual number of elephant carcasses was first recorded in early May, McCann said.

“It’s scary – we need to know what’s going on,” he said, adding that he could not remember another time when so many elephants had died from a mysterious cause.

Botswana hosts 130,000 African elephants – more than any other country on the continent. The Okavango Delta, where the bodies were found, is home to about 10 percent of the country’s elephants, McCann said.
Botswana's return to elephant hunting will not solve any problems, says former President
Last year, Botswana overturned an elephant hunt ban imposed in 2014, sparking an international outcry. McCann said poaching could not be ruled out this time around, although the tusks were still in the elephants.

“800 of them are found as a magnet for criminals,” he added.

McCann said there were several possibilities for what could have caused the deaths, including an elephant parasite – or even Covid-19.

“What I would like to emphasize is that this may be a public health crisis,” he said.

Whatever the cause, McCann said it was important to get to the bottom, as the loss of the elephant’s life was already “important worldwide,” he said.

The African elephant has been classified as vulnerable to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The first Great Elephant Census, a pan-African survey conducted in 2016, found that in just seven years between 2007 and 2014, elephant numbers fell by at least 30% or 144,000.

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