Adding another tragic event to the gloomy 2020’s kitty is the unexplained deaths of over 350 elephants in the southern African country of Botswana over the last two months. Leaving conservationists and officials baffled, the mysterious mass die-off has been described as a “conservation disaster”.
According to BBC, Niall McCann of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue said that his colleagues in the southern African country had spotted more than 350 elephant carcasses in the Okavango Delta since the start of May.
“They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight. To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight were 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 told the BBC.
Botswana government has ruled out poaching as the reason because the tusks on the elephants were still intact. Meanwhile, McCann has also tentatively ruled out natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year.
He further added that the way the animals were dropping dead and their behavior before dying indicated a neurological condition. The elephants were seen dropping to their faces while others were seen walking in circles.
“If you look at the carcasses, some of them have fallen straight on their face, indicating they died very quickly. Others are obviously dying more slowly, like the ones that are wandering around. So it’s very difficult to say what this toxin is,” said McCann.
So, as of now, no one really knows why the animals are dying, with lab results on samples still weeks away.
Notably, Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s declining elephant population.