AT LEAST 350 elephants have mysteriously dropped dead near waterholes in Africa… and nobody knows why it’s happened.
The gentle giants reportedly died from unknown causes and aerial shots show carcasses scattered across the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.
The first unusual deaths were reported in May when 169 elephants died in a short period at the delta.
The toll had almost doubled by mid June, with 70% of deaths occurring at waterholes, report local sources.
The Botswana government have not yet tested their bodies for traces of poison or pathogens but Anthrax – a serious bacterial disease – has been ruled out, according to The Guardian.
Cyanide poisoning, often used by poachers in Zimbabwe, could be a possible cause of death but scavenging animals do not appear to be dying at the carcasses.
Covid-19 has also been mentioned as a possible cause but this is unlikely.
“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,” said Dr Niall McCann, the director of National Park Rescue.
Scientists have urged the government to test the animals to ensure they do not pose a risk to human life.
“The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency in London.
‘MORE WILL DIE’
Locals in the area have reportedly seen the elephants walking around in circles, which is said to be an indication of neurological impairment.
“If you look at the carcasses, some of them have fallen straight on their face, indicating they died very quickly.
“Others are obviously dying more slowly, like the ones that are wandering around. So it’s very difficult to say what this toxin is,” said Dr McCann.
Local reports say that elephants of all ages and both sexes have died. Several live elephants are reportedly weak which suggests that more will die in the coming weeks.
Conservationists think that the death toll will be higher as “carcasses can be difficult to spot”.
Acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks Cyril Taolo blamed Covid-19 for the delay in receiving test results, report The Guardian.
“We are aware of the elephants that are dying. Out of the 350 animals we have confirmed 280 of those animals. We are still in the process of confirming the rest”, he said.
“We have sent [samples] off for testing and we are expecting the results over the next couple of weeks or so.
“The Covid-19 restrictions have not helped in the transportation of samples in the region and around the world.”
Botswana is home to more than 130,000 elephants – approximately a third of Africa’s remaining savanna elephants. There are about 15,000 elephants in the Okavango Delta.