Hundreds Of Elephants Mysteriously Found Dead In Botswana
More than 350 elephants have been found dead in the north of Bostwana in a mysterious mass death.
Scientists are describing the event as a 'conservation disaster', with the cause of death still unknown.
The first deaths were reported at the start of May, but when the figure rose to 169 elephants by the end of the month, scientists grew more concerned.
The number had more than doubled by the middle of June, with local sources saying that they believed around 70 percent of the deaths to be gathered near waterholes.
Speaking to the Guardian, Niall McCann, the director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue, said: "This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn't been seen in a very, very long time. Outside of drought, I don't know of a die-off that has been this significant."
But the government in Botswana says that no information is available yet, with samples not yet tested due to coronavirus. It's not been ascertained whether there is a human risk.
It's been reported that despite the large amounts of carcasses, other animals have not touched them, suggesting that it could be due to poisoning.
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McCann said: "When we've got a mass die-off of elephants near human habitation at a time when wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone's minds, it seems extraordinary that the government has not sent the samples to a reputable lab."
It's also been reported that locals saw some elephants walking around in circles, suggesting that whatever the reason behind the death was, it caused them to have a neurological problem.
McCann explained: "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."
The deaths weren't limited to any certain age or sex, with all different elephants found.
Some elephants have been found still alive, but they seem emaciated and weak, suggesting that they may be dying.
Poachers in Zimbabwe are known to use cyanide to poison elephants, and while it remains a distinct possibility, scavengers aren't dying by the elephants. Although there are some vultures, none of them have gone on to show abnormal behaviour.
None of the tusks appear to have been removed from the elephants.
McCann added: "There is no precedent for this being a natural phenomenon but without proper testing, it will never be known."
Featured Image Credit: PA