More than 350 elephants drop dead in mysterious masses ‘dying’ in Botswana’s Okavango Delta

Hundreds of elephants have mysteriously died in Botswana during what has been described as a ‘natural disaster’.

More than 350 elephants have died from unknown causes, with aerial photographs of their carcasses scattered across the Okavango Delta and other northern parts of the country.

The first unusual deaths were reported in May when 169 elephants died in a short time in the Okavango Delta, a swampy and lush nature.

That number had nearly doubled by mid-June, with 70 percent of deaths around wells, according to local sources.

More than 350 elephants have died from unknown causes, with aerial photographs of their carcasses spanning the Okavango Delta (photo) and other northern Botswana

More than 350 elephants have died from unknown causes, with aerial photographs of their carcasses spanning the Okavango Delta (photo) and other northern Botswana

The carcasses have yet to be tested for pathogens or poison, despite the first death in early May

The carcasses have yet to be tested for pathogens or poison, despite the first death in early May

The carcasses have yet to be tested for pathogens or poison, despite the first death in early May

The Botswana government has not yet tested the animal’s bodies for traces of poison or pathogens, but anthrax has been ruled out – cyanide poisoning has previously been used by poachers in Zimbabwe.

Dr Niall McCann, director of conservation at National Park Rescue told the story The Guardian: “This is a massive die-off at a level not seen in a very long time. Outside of the drought, I don’t know of any dieback that has been so important. ‘

Scientists have urged the government to test the animals to make sure they do not pose a risk to human life, since the transmission of pathogens from humans to animals is at the forefront of the world.

The country's government blamed the Covid-19 restrictions on the slow processing of the elephant's tests, saying the tests were sent to another country for analysis

The country's government blamed the Covid-19 restrictions on the slow processing of the elephant's tests, saying the tests were sent to another country for analysis

The country’s government blamed the Covid-19 restrictions on the slow processing of the elephant’s tests, saying the tests were sent to another country for analysis

Some elephants look like they died in a few moments and fell flat on their faces, while others reportedly walked in circles before dying

Some elephants look like they died in a few moments and fell flat on their faces, while others reportedly walked in circles before dying

Some elephants look like they died in a few moments and fell flat on their faces, while others reportedly walked in circles before dying

Locals say 70 percent of deaths occur near waterholes, which could be an indication

Locals say 70 percent of deaths occur near waterholes, which could be an indication

Locals say 70 percent of deaths occur near waterholes, which could be an indication

Locals in the area had reported seeing the elephants walking in circles, suggesting they have been neurologically affected by a pathogen or poison.

Dr. McCann added, “When you look at the carcasses, some of them fell right on their faces, indicating that they died very quickly. Others clearly die slower, like those who wander. So it is very difficult to say what this poison is, ”

In response to The Guardian Dr. Cyril Taolo, acting director of Botswana’s wildlife and national parks department said, “We are aware of the elephants that are dying. We confirmed 280 of the 350 animals. We are still working to confirm the rest. ‘

He blamed Covid-19 restrictions on the slow processing of the elephant’s tests, saying the tests were sent to another country for analysis.

An elephant's sunken body is seen in the bushes, locals noted that fewer vultures than normally expected had upset the bodies

An elephant's sunken body is seen in the bushes, locals noted that fewer vultures than normally expected had upset the bodies

An elephant’s sunken body is seen in the bushes, locals noted that fewer vultures than normally expected had upset the bodies

President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting last year, but the corona virus did not start the season this year

President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting last year, but the corona virus did not start the season this year

President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting last year, but the corona virus did not start the season this year

Dr. McCann said the recent deaths were a “natural disaster” as the country cannot protect one of its most valuable assets

The lack of vultures on the carcasses also caused locals to suggest that anything beyond a natural phenomenon caused death, with covid-19 also being a possibility.

Although the total elephant population in Africa is decreasing due to poaching, the number of Botswana is increasing.

The southern African country is home to a third of the continent’s elephants and has gained a population of 80,000 to 130,000 through well-managed reserves.

Ecotourism is a big part of the country's income, it is thought that 130,000 elephants live in the country

Ecotourism is a big part of the country's income, it is thought that 130,000 elephants live in the country

Ecotourism is a big part of the country’s income, it is thought that 130,000 elephants live in the country

Locals have urged the government to guard the elephant's bodies to prevent the tusks from being removed by poachers

Locals have urged the government to guard the elephant's bodies to prevent the tusks from being removed by poachers

Locals have urged the government to guard the elephant’s bodies to prevent the tusks from being removed by poachers

It is not known whether the animal's bodies pose a risk to humans, therefore urgent investigations are required

It is not known whether the animal's bodies pose a risk to humans, therefore urgent investigations are required

It is not known whether the animal’s bodies pose a risk to humans, therefore urgent investigations are required

An elephant's body disintegrates.  It seems to have died like a quick death by falling into an unnatural position

An elephant's body disintegrates.  It seems to have died like a quick death by falling into an unnatural position

An elephant’s body disintegrates. It seems to have died like a quick death by falling into an unnatural position

An inflated elephant carcass is seen in the Okavango Delta.  15,000 would only occur in nature

An inflated elephant carcass is seen in the Okavango Delta.  15,000 would only occur in nature

An inflated elephant carcass is seen in the Okavango Delta. 15,000 would only occur in nature

There are about 15,000 elephants in the Okavango Delta, and tourists’ attraction to the country’s wildlife is said to generate about 12 percent of GDP.

While elephants continue to be threatened, farmers see them as a nuisance to crop destruction and poaching is still common.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi last year lifted a five-year ban on big game hunting imposed by previous President Ian Khama.

But the coronavirus travel restrictions prevented the hunting season from starting this year.

Dr. McCann said the recent deaths were a “natural disaster” because the country is unable to protect one of its most valuable assets.

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