Botswana says cyanobacteria responsible for 330 elephant deaths


A water-borne bacteria caused the deaths of 330 elephants in Botswana, the government said Monday, after weeks of mystery surrounding what killed the animals.

“Special data analysis taken from among others, carcasses, soil, blood and water from seasonal water pans were taken for laboratory tests leading to cyanobacteria being detected and diagnosed,” said Mamadi Reuben, the principal veterinary officer at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

He said cyanobacteria which live in the water in the Okavango Delta can produce deadly toxins, noting the elephants showed signs of nervous system breakdown.

Reuben added that other animals who drank from the same source may not have been similarly affected because the pachyderms “use their trucks to access water below the surface where this bacteria resides.”

“We also discovered that when the pans started to dry up around June this year, the mortality also stopped. We know that the rainy season is just around the corner and we are working on some strategies to ensure that we don’t register more deaths of elephants in that area again,” said Reuben.

Botswana is known for its nature and is a popular tourist destination because of its wildlife. The lifting of a ban on elephant hunting last year caused international outrage.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said at the time that hunting was necessary to keep the elephant population of close to 130,000 in check.

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