Elephants in Africa massively are dying from an unknown disease

Elephants in Africa massively are dying from an unknown disease

3 July 2020, 10:50In the world
The number of dead giants in the South African country of Botswana has exceeded 350 individuals.

The Guardian reports about an environmental disaster in Botswana: more than 350 elephants died here from an unknown cause.

Irina Ziganshina

In early May, several deaths of elephants were recorded in the Okavango Delta in Northern Botswana. By the end of the month 169 individuals had already died, and by mid-June their number had more than doubled. At the same time, 70% of deaths, according to some sources, occurred near water bodies. According to experts, such a mass extinction has not happened for a very long time, and the cause of the former was only drought.

Scientists have not yet studied the remains, so there is no information on the causes of death and whether this can be a danger to human health. Initially, anthrax was considered the most likely cause, but it was ruled out. Now the main version is poisoning or an unknown pathogen.

Experts say that it is difficult to understand which pathogen killed animals without examination. Some elephants, according to local observers, did not die immediately, but walked in circles before death, which is a sign of a neurological disorder. Others died instantly, falling flat. Among the victims are elephants of all ages, males and females. The death toll is likely to continue to increase: some living elephants now look weak and exhausted. Calculating the exact number of deaths will be difficult, because the remains can be in remote places.

Experts do not exclude the version that the cause of death could be cyanide poisoning, often used by poachers in Zimbabwe, but the likelihood of this is small: although less than the usual vultures are found on the corpses, the birds look quite healthy and do not die. COVID-19 is also mentioned as a possible cause, but it is also considered unlikely.

Elephants are a national treasure of Botswana. Most of the country's GDP comes from diamond mining. Ecotourism, of which elephants are a part, is in second place: it gives about 10-12% of GDP. At the same time, in the Okavango Delta, there are about 15,000 elephants - this is a tenth of all the elephants of Botswana. Now the samples for testing are in the laboratory, the results are expected in two weeks. The aerial photograph shows the corpses of elephants seen in the Okavango Delta.

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