At least three hundred carcasses of elephants in Botswana have been spotted dead across the Okavango Delta in what is being referred to as a “conservation disaster.” Botswana is home to about a third of Africa’s elephants.
In mid-May, the mysterious death of a dozen elephants was first reported in the same region of Botswana- a landlocked south-African nation that boasts the world’s largest population of African elephants.
Twelve individuals were found dead, without any apparent reasons; veterinaries ruled out poaching presumptions since bodies were intact. Those 12 deaths escalated up to 169 by the end of the month, the Guardian reported.
Recently, by mid-June, number of elephants dying in the same region has more than doubled. And surprisingly, more than 70% of the reported deaths were found from near waterholes, local sources told the Guardian under the condition of anonymity.
“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,” director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue, Dr. Niall McCann told.
The Botswana government is yet to test the dead bodies for confirmation, and two probabilities are currently being mulled – an unknown parasite attack or poisoning. The possibilities of the Anthrax and poaching were ruled out. And it remains uncertain what is causing the death of the animals.
“A catastrophic die-off of elephants is happening in northern Botswana, and no one knows why. It’s vital that a team of independent experts visit and sample the carcasses before any more elephants die, or this spills over into the local human population,” Dr. McCann tweeted.
Dr. McCann condemned the Botswana government for not testing the samples at a reputable lab when “wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone’s mind.” He told this is in no precedent a natural phenomenon, but unless tested, it will never be known.
Locals witnesses said many spotted the jumbos moving around in circles, tipping neurological disorder, before succumbing. Dr. McCann noted that many carcasses of the elephants show the animals fell on their face, indicating they died very quickly.
Local reports suggest several elephants appear emaciated, and they fear more will die in the coming weeks. Locals have also found elephants of both the sexes have succumbed to the still now mysterious dying spree.
“We have sent [samples] off for testing and we are expecting the results over the next couple of weeks or so,” Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, told the Guardian.
(Cover image courtesy of @_G12 via Twitter)