Botswana: More than 360 elephants die from mysterious causes

Some bodies were found piled up around the watercourse, while others died “falling straight in the face”, said Niall McCann, director of protection at the National Rescue Park in Great Britain.

The live elephants seen nearby looked physically weak, and one was walking in circles, unable to change direction, observers said. Other species in the area do not appear to have affected what struck the elephants.

The Botswana government is testing samples of dead elephants, but the cause of death has yet to be determined.

An unusual number of elephant carcasses was first recorded in early May, McCann said.

“It’s awful – we need to know what the hell is going on,” he said, adding that he can’t remember another time when so many elephants died from a mysterious cause.

Botswana is home 130,000 African elephants – more than any other country on the continent. The Okavango Delta, where the bodies were found, is home to about 10% of the elephants in the country, McCann said.
Botswana's return to elephant hunting will not solve any problem, the former president says
Last year, Botswana lifted the ban on elephant hunting that it had in 2014, which caused an international response. McCann said the dam cannot be ruled out this time, although the tusks are still on the elephants.

“800 of them lie around like a magnet for criminals,” he added.

McCann said there were a number of possibilities for what could have caused the death, including a specific elephant parasite – or even Covid-19.

“What I would like to emphasize is that it could be a public health crisis,” he said.

Whatever the cause, McCann said it’s important to get to the bottom of it because the loss of elephants ’lives is already“ significant globally ”.

African elephant is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The first census of the Great Elephant, a pan-African survey conducted in 2016, found that in just seven years between 2007 and 2014, the number of elephants fell by at least 30%, or 144,000.

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