Hundreds of Elephants Drop Dead Mysteriously in Botswana

Experts have ruled out poaching and natural anthrax poisoning as the causes but still don't know what else may be causing the deaths.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Hundreds of elephants are mysteriously dropping dead in Botswana, Southern Africa. 

Dr. Niall McCann, of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, told the BBC that up to 350 elephant carcasses have been spotted in the Okavango Delta since the start of May. Lab tests have begun to see what may be causing these deaths but results are still weeks away.


McCann added that local conservationists found the elephants' carcasses after they took a flight over the delta.

"They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight," he told the BBC. "To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight was extraordinary.

"A month later, further investigations identified many more carcasses, bringing the total to over 350."

"This is totally unprecedented in terms of numbers of elephants dying in a single event unrelated to drought," he added.

For now, experts have at least managed to rule out what is not responsible for the deaths. It is not poaching, as the tusks have not been removed and the only species dying are elephants.

Poachers use cyanide which results in other deaths as well. Natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year, has also been ruled out.

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McCann added that the way the elephants have been dying indicates something attacking their neurological systems. This has been concluded from seeing animals dropping on their faces and others walking in circles.

What is even more worrisome is that if the cause is a disease it may have the potential to cross over to humans as COVID-19 did. McCann said the situation "has the potential to be a public health crisis."

So far, 280 elephants have been confirmed dead and the rest are in the process of being confirmed. Whether it poses a threat to humans or not, the disease is still devastating as Botswana is home to a third of Africa's already dwindling elephant population.

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