More than 350 elephants have died in northern Botswana since May, in what is being described as a ‘conservation disaster’.
It began two months ago, when 169 elephants died in the Okavango Delta – a number that had more than doubled by the middle of June.
Around 70% of the dead animals were discovered around waterholes, however experts have been at a loss as to what could be causing the mass die-off.
Dr Niall McCann, director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue, told the Guardian:
This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn’t been seen in a very, very long time. Outside of drought, I don’t know of a die-off that has been this significant.
At this stage the Botswana government is yet to test any samples, so there has been very few answers as to what could be causing so many deaths. Experts have put it down to two main possibilities: poisoning or an unknown pathogen – however anthrax has been ruled out.
When we’ve got a mass die-off of elephants near human habitation at a time when wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems extraordinary that the government has not sent the samples to a reputable lab.
Some locals reported signs the elephants could have been suffering from a neurological impairment, with many saying they’d seen elephants walking round in circles.
There are around 15,000 elephants living in the delta, and no deaths have been reported in any neighbouring countries.
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