The mystery surrounds the “totally unprecedented” death of hundreds of elephants in Botswana in the past two months.
Dr. Niall McCann said colleagues in southern Africa have spotted more than 350 elephant carcasses in the Okavango Delta since the start of May.
No one knows why the animals die, and the results of laboratory tests on the samples will not be available for several weeks, according to the government.
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Dr McCann, of the British national charity National Park Rescue, told the BBC that local environmentalists alerted the government in early May after flying over the delta.
“They spotted 169 during a three-hour flight,” he said. “Being able to see and count that much in three hours of flying was amazing.
“A month later, further investigations identified many more carcasses, bringing the total to over 350.”
“It is completely unprecedented in terms of the number of elephants that died in a single event unrelated to the drought,” he added.
Last May, the government of Botswana ruled out poaching as a reason, noting that the tusks had not been removed, according to Phys.org.
There are other elements that indicate something other than poaching.
“It’s only the elephants that die and nothing else,” said Dr. McCann. “If it were cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see more dead.”
Dr. McCann has also temporarily ruled out natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year.
But they could not rule out either poisoning or illness. The way the animals die – many fall on the face – and the sighting of other elephants spinning in circles indicates that something had attacked their neurological system, said Dr. McCann.
In any case, without knowing the source, it is impossible to exclude the possibility that a disease spreads in the human population, especially if the cause is found in water sources or in the soil. Dr. McCann talks about the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have started in animals.
“Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it could also be a public health crisis,” he said.
Dr. Cyril Taolo, Acting Director of the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told the Guardian that they have so far confirmed that at least 280 elephants have died, and that they are in the process of confirm the rest.
However, they do not know what caused the animals to die.
“We have sent samples for testing and we expect the results in the next two weeks,” he said.
Author: Bbc-Afrique – BBC-Afrique