In 2015, some 200,000 saiga antelopes died from blood poisoning in Kazakhstan after extreme heat and humidity caused a common Pasteurella bacterium—which under normal conditions occurs harmlessly in the animals—to multiply and fatally overwhelm them. But elephants generally drink from the middle of water bodies—not the edges where cyanobacteria tend to accumulate. Could local people who live close to elephants have poisoned them in retaliation for eating their crops, perhaps by lacing waterholes or vegetables such as cabbages? “From a population perspective this is not serious, even though many elephants have died,” says Markus Hofmeyr, a wildlife veterinarian and former head of veterinary services at Kruger National Park. If anthrax is killing the elephants, it would be a difficult problem to stamp out, he adds. Other poisons, such as sodium fluoroacetate, which is sometimes used as a pesticide and breaks down more quickly, could be suspects. Six new elephant carcasses have been discovered in the African country, taking the … But as an expert in elephants and their … More than 350 elephants … Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism has ruled out commonly used agro-chemicals or pesticides as the cause of death for the 281 elephants that died mysteriously since March 2020. It’s also possible to detect the virus itself during a necropsy. The Botswana government is testing samples from the dead elephants, but is yet to determine a cause of death. This isn't the first elephant die-off in the region; more than 100 elephants died over a two-month period in the fall of 2019 in Botswana's Chobe National Park, primarily driven by drought. Over the past several months, hundreds of elephants have died in Botswana, some with these symptoms. According to Kock, froth in the elephants’ airways and specific signs of heart damage would point to this cause. Encephalomyocarditis hasn’t been a priority for treatment or vaccine development, so if it’s to blame, there’s little recourse to counter it. Perhaps the area’s recent abundant rains, after years of drought, set the stage for an outbreak, he says. Hundreds of elephants have mysteriously dropped dead in Botswana in what is being described as a 'conservation disaster'. Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to 130,000 from 80,000 in the late 1990s. Natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Botswana last year, has reportedly been ruled out as a cause of death for the elephants investigated this year. But skeptical conservationists are demanding that the full results of the government's investigation be released. On May 25, conservationists were flying over Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle when they counted something disturbing: 169 dead elephants. All rights reserved. The official death toll stands at 330, with the fatalities occurring between late April and June. The country's Deputy Director of Wildlife and National Parks, Cyril Taolo said Monday that the government had all but ruled out human involvement in the deaths. Something similar could be happening with the elephants, veterinarians say. Cyanobacteria likely caused prehistoric mass elephant die-offs. At least 350 carcasses have been discovered … Sudden death preceded by neurological symptoms would be consistent with this rodent-borne virus, which causes heart failure. The official death toll stands at 330, with the fatalities occurring between late April and June. Editorial note: Subsequent to our story below the Botswana Government has issued a brief update, which we provide as a footnote to this story. “It is, however, important that there is a diagnosis made to make sure no foul play is at hand—that would be a problem for the population if it is not dealt with.”. The sudden deaths of some 330 elephants in northwestern Botswana earlier this year may have occurred because they drank water contaminated by toxic blue-green algae, the government announced Monday. Experts say that getting an accurate explanation requires sampling carcasses and the soil and water in their vicinity almost immediately after the elephants die. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/07/botswana-elephant-death-mystery.html, has been known to affect domestic and wild animals. The government has launched an investigation because there is … Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. If poison—typically cyanide—was used, the deaths would likely be clustered in a specific area, as seen here. The infectious disease, caused by a bacterium found in the soil, has killed elephants in Botswana in the past. Sudden deaths of elephants after showing neurological symptoms—such as walking in circles, as reported by eyewitnesses—suggests anthrax poisoning is a likely possibility. Hundreds of elephants die from mysterious causes in Botswana, More than 360 elephants die from mysterious causes in Botswana. It happened after the first wet year following a severe drought—conditions similar to those recently in Botswana—when the rodent population around South Africa’s famous park exploded, says Bengis, who was head of state veterinary services at Kruger at the time. The mysterious death of hundreds of elephants in Botswana has left experts alarmed that there could be a dangerous neurotoxin spreading through one of Africa’s largest conservationist areas. Although a vaccine against anthrax is given routinely to livestock such as cattle, administering it to 18,000 elephants is unrealistic, Kock says. According to veterinarians and wildlife experts interviewed by National Geographic, as well as an examination of past elephant die-offs, possible causes include: ingestion of toxic bacteria in water, anthrax poisoning, poisoning by humans, viral infection from rodents, or a pathogenic microbe. Cyanobacteria are routinely found in water, but not all produce toxins. August 11, 2020 by Kraig Becker One of the stories we’ve been following closely over the past month or so is the continuing mystery surrounding the death of more than 350 elephants in a … (CNN) More than 300 elephants in Botswana have been killed by toxin-producing cyanobacteria in waterholes, government wildlife officials said … The dying animals in Botswana lived in a roughly thousand-square-mile tract in a remote area northeast of the Okavango Delta, where an estimated 18,000 elephants, 16,000 people, and 18,000 cattle live. Hundreds of elephants have died from unknown causes over the past few months in Botswana. Here’s a closer look at the possible causes and their significance: One possible explanation for the elephant deaths is anthrax poisoning. Botswana, with an estimated 130,000 savanna elephants, is one of the species’ last strongholds in Africa, where ivory poaching has been responsible for reducing their numbers to roughly 350,000. Botswana said a new pathogen may be responsible for the death of hundreds of elephants in the country with the world's biggest population of the animals. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, around 130,000. Elephants were first reported to have died in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana, at the beginning of May. But cyanide remains in carcasses long after death, and there’s no evidence that animals eating the bodies of the dead elephants—hyenas, jackals, vultures—are dying as well. The Botswana government, which is investigating the mysterious deaths, announced at a press conference on July 10 that it has preliminary results from laboratory tests in Zimbabwe but is waiting to share them with the public, pending conclusive answers. Worrying news has recently come to light: hundreds of elephants have been found dead in Botswana, and as yet, there is no clear cause of death. “The vegetation is lush and green after a much better rainfall year as compared to the drought of the previous years,” he says. Last year, the country scrapped an elephant hunting ban it had in place since 2014, sparking international outcry. Last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on hunting elephants, citing the need to reduce dangerous encounters. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, around 130,000. Some conservationists had suspected poachers of killing the elephants, which died in May. Botswana's mystery spate of elephant deaths could be caused by a 'novel disease', the government fears. Here's what we know … The deaths, which took place over the course of three months, were first recorded in May and reported in early July. Cyanobacteria—blue-green algae—can be deadly, and many of the elephants have been found near waterholes or ponds. Botswana is home to 130,000 African elephants -- more than any other country on the continent. But that explanation doesn't satisfy some conservationists. Bacteria and viruses previously not deadly for specific species can evolve to become killers—as was the case with the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which likely originated in bats and so far has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide. The sudden deaths of some 330 elephants in northwestern Botswana earlier this year may have occurred because they drank water contaminated by toxic blue-green algae, the government announced Monday. Multiple factors, including climate change, could contribute to such die-offs. Elephant deaths in Botswana a mystery According to The BBC, Botswana is worried about the "completely unprecedented" loss of hundreds of elephants since May due to unexplained reasons. Hundreds of elephants were found dead in Botswana in a mysterious mass-die off that has experts demanding urgent testing, according to a report. Photograph: Reuters E arlier this year, more than 350 elephants mysteriously died in the Okavango delta in Botswana. The elephants have been dying in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana Why you can trust Sky News Officials in Botswana are investigating the unexplained deaths of at least 350 elephants in just a few weeks. "The one thing elephants do that other species don't is they go and seek crops in farmers' fields," said Lindsay. Sudden or extreme changes in weather, the landscape, or microbes’ hosts can trigger changes in bacteria or viruses, making them deadly. Botswana is home to a third of Africa's declining elephant population. ... Last year, Botswana scrapped an elephant … GABORONE – Botswana said on Friday it had received test results from samples sent to Zimbabwe to determine the cause of death of hundreds of elephants but is … "We have ruled out poaching," he said. To prevent the spores from spreading, it’s necessary to burn the carcasses as soon as possible—requiring tons of wood. The mystery of unexplained elephant deaths in northwest Botswana deepened, with a study of the carcasses of hundreds of the animals indicating a … Six new elephant carcasses have been discovered in … … The bizarre behavior and sheer number of deaths suggest to experts that it’s unlikely that diseases known to afflict wild elephants, such as tuberculosis, are to blame. Science What the sudden elephant deaths in Botswana could mean to the species. The cause of death had not yet been determined and the Botswana government has claimed that the possibilities the deaths were caused by poaching, poisoning by humans and anthrax have been ruled out. The government has all but ruled out human involvement in the deaths. The deaths were recorded in … The elephants’ tusks aren’t missing, which rules out poaching for ivory. “We have to keep an open mind,” veterinarian Verreynne says. Hundreds of elephants were found dead in Botswana in a mysterious mass-die off that has experts demanding urgent testing, according to a report. August 11, 2020 by Kraig Becker One of the stories we’ve been following closely over the past month or so is the continuing mystery surrounding the death of more than 350 elephants in a remote corner of northwest Botswana near the Okavango Delta. By then, the hot sun has helped degrade the body, likely erasing key evidence, and scavenging animals may eat organs before they can be recovered for examination. The only way to confirm or rule out cyanobacteria is to test the waters, which Taolo says is underway. Their cause was initially a mystery; Botswana ordered laboratory tests to be carried out on carcass, soil and water samples as speculation grew over the deaths. Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000. He notes that another possibility could be viruses transmitted by arthropods such as ticks or mosquitoes that have never been diagnosed in wild elephants before. Taolo said additional clues on the ground, including that the dead elephants were all found their tusks intact further strengthened the government's findings that the deaths were naturally caused. But temperatures in the region haven’t been exceptionally high lately, and the deaths are still relatively confined, making this theory less likely. More than 350 elephants were reported to have died in Botswana in recent weeks but the cause of death had remained unknown. “Disease is often an indicator of an underlying problem,” Verreynne says, adding that untangling what’s killing Botswana’s elephants “may assist in assessing the health of the ecosystem. Botswana elephant graveyard: mystery death toll rises to 400 Posted on June 30, 2020 by Team Africa Geographic in the News Desk post series. To verify this, Kock says, scientists would need to examine the victims’ liver, which acts as the body’s natural toxin filter, and stomach, where the potentially contaminated food might be testable. Here are the top theories. It’s possible that the elephants in Botswana were sickened by something else and, perhaps feverish, craved water and died soon after drinking or trying to drink. Botswana said a new pathogen may be responsible for the death of hundreds of elephants in the country with the world's biggest population of the animals. A second flight … There have been no reports of unusually large numbers of rodents in the areas where Botswana’s elephants have died, however. Updated 12:48 PM ET, Mon September 21, 2020. The alarm was raised when elephant carcasses were spotted in the country's Okavango Delta between May and June. “Results from Canada and the U.S. will follow thereafter.”. "We have had a report of 356 dead elephants in … ... Last year, Botswana scrapped an elephant hunting ban it had in place in … GABARONE, BOTSWANA - The mystery surrounding a mass die-off of elephants in Botswana is deepening after initial test results ruled out poisoning and anthrax. The species is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. More than 350 elephants have died from unknown causes, with … Scientists worry that climate change will trigger the bacteria to produce more toxins as water temperatures rise and conditions become more favorable for the bacteria to grow. More than 60 elephants in Kruger National Park died this way during the early 1990s. Botswana is investigating a growing number of unexplained deaths of elephants, having confirmed 275 had died, up from 154 two weeks ago, the government said … What’s killing Botswana’s elephants? Yet the death toll keeps growing. Given that the deaths have been occurring in such a remote region, with few roads, getting to all the carcasses would be an additional challenge. Many coronaviruses occur in animals, but there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is behind these elephant deaths, or that it even occurs in elephants, Kock says. A dead elephant found near Seronga, in the Okavango delta, Botswana. The virus is excreted in the feces of rodents; elephants are at risk of eating contaminated grass. "If it's in waterholes or was in waterholes, why was it only elephants that were affected?," Keith Lindsay, a conservation biologist, whose research is focused on elephants, told CNN. 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