Tag Archives: death

Botswana investigates elephants mysterious deaths

Preliminary laboratory tests explaining the reason for hundreds of mysterious elephant deaths in Botswana point to a naturally occurring toxin as a probable cause, a senior wildlife official said.

The government has sent samples to laboratories in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States for tests.

It was highly unlikely that an infectious disease was behind the shocking deaths of at least 281 elephants, added Cyril Taolo, acting director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Officials had been investigating to establish the cause of death more than two months after the first carcasses were spotted in the Okavango Panhandle region.

Initial investigations appeared to rule out common causes like poaching and anthrax.

We have received more test results from other countries including the United States, and so far the results show that it’s highly unlikely that the cause could be an infectious pathogen,” Taolo said.

Our main attention … is now on investigating broader environmental factors such as naturally produced toxins from bacteria that are found in the environment, such as water bodies.”

As of last week it had received results from bacterial detection and toxicology tests in Botswana, histopathology tests in South Africa, and bacterial detection and histopathology tests in Zimbabwe.

Taolo said toxicology results were expected from South Africa soon.

It’s a game of elimination where we start testing the most common causes and then move on to the less common ones. We then have to verify and corroborate these results from different laboratory tests. We are hoping to provide a more concrete update tomorrow,” he continued.

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.

The elephant deaths have concerned the conservationists, who fear deaths could spiral out of control if a cause cannot be established rapidly.

Massive death of Botswana elephants

More than 350 elephants in Botswana have mysteriously died since May, in a phenomenon that some scientists have charachterised as a “conservation disaster”. No full investigation has been conducted so far, no explanation provided, however there have been some tests on a number of carcasses, which have exclused some of contageious deseases, typical for the speaces, but the cause of death remains unexplained.

The elephants — which massively died in the swampy Okavango Delta — still had their tusks intact, suggesting that the ivory poaching was not behind it. A flight over the delta in May by researchers with Elephants Without Borders, a wildlife conservation organization, first spotted 169 carcasses, that number increased rapidly to 356 in June, when the conservationists took another flight over the area.

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism is aware of the problme, and the relevant department has verified 275 of those elephant carcasses, according to a statement from the African Wildlife Foundation.

Already, officials have ruled out anthrax, the carcasses tested negative for that bacterium, said Scott Schlossberg, a research consultant for Elephants Without Borders.

The bacterium that causes anthrax disease, called Bacillus anthracis, occurs naturally in soils, where it can stay inactive as spores for decades, scientists reported in 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Grazing animals can ingest anthrax-tainted soils along with plants or while drinking from watering holes.

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. Some of those deaths may have been due to anthrax, as the elephants would have ingested soil (possibly contaminated with anthrax spores) while grazing around dried-up watering holes and across wilted grasslands.

Mugabe funeral causes controversy

Robert Mugabe (95) died September 6 early morning hours at Singapore’s Gleneagles Hospital, according to Asian country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The cause of death has not been released so far, however taking into consideration his age, Mugabe passed away due to natural causes. The Singapore diplomats expressed their condolences and said the Ministry has been working with the Embassy of Zimbabwe on repatriating the remains to Harare.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the country’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) extended his condolences to the Mugabe family and to Africa this morning, saying that it was a “dark moment for the family because a giant among them has fallen.”

Unnamed family members disclosed that Mugabe explicitly refused a prospect of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies to perform his last rites having, because of removing him from leadership in a military coup in November 2017, 

The source suggested that Mugabe’s preference was to be buried next to his family members next to his  mother Bona at his rural home in Zvimba, Mashonaland West province.