Botswana says toxins in water cause of mysterious elephant deaths

THE deaths of hundreds of elephants in Botswana this year which had baffled and alarmed conservationists were caused by toxins produced by cyanobacteria in water, officials said on Monday.

Cyril Taolo, deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told a news conference that the number of dead elephants had risen to 330, from 281 last reported in July.

The department’s principal veterinary officer Mmadi Reuben told the same conference that there were, however, still many unanswered questions.

“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water,” Reuben said.

“However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only (died) and why that area only. We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, more than 20 elephant carcasses were discovered near the country’s biggest game park and authorities suspect they succumbed to a bacterial infection.

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Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.  – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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