Left Menu
Development News Edition

Botswana says toxins in water killed hundreds of elephants

Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures. Cyril Taolo, deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told a news conference the number of dead elephants had risen to 330, from 281 reported in July.

Reuters | Updated: 21-09-2020 17:37 IST | Created: 21-09-2020 17:30 IST
Botswana says toxins in water killed hundreds of elephants
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials said on Monday, announcing the result of an investigation into the deaths which had baffled and alarmed conservationists. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.

Cyril Taolo, deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told a news conference the number of dead elephants had risen to 330, from 281 reported in July. The department's principal veterinary officer Mmadi Reuben told the news conference: "Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water.

"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating." Other animals in the Okavango Panhandle region appeared unharmed.

Some cyanobacterial blooms can harm people and animals and scientists are concerned about their potential impact as climate change leads to warmer water temperatures, which many cyanobacteria prefer. Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"It amounts to having the right conditions, in the right time, in the right place and these species will proliferate," Patricia Glibert, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who has studied cyanobacteria, told Reuters. "These conditions are coming together more often, in more places, so we are seeing more of these toxic blooms around the world."

In neighboring Zimbabwe, about 25 elephant carcasses were found near the country's biggest game park and authorities suspect they succumbed to a bacterial infection. The animals were found with tusks intact, ruling out poaching and deliberate poisoning. Parks authorities believe the elephants could have ingested the bacteria while searching for food. The carcasses were found near water sources.

"We considered the possibility of cyanobacteria but we have no evidence that this is the case here (in Zimbabwe)," said Chris Foggin, a veterinarian at the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, which tested samples from dead elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana. Zimbabwe has sent samples to Britain and is waiting for permits to send samples to two other countries, Foggin said.

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.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

New farm bills in India: Focusing on farms or farmers?

... ...

Kenya’s COVID-19 response: Chaos amid lack of information

Confusing numbers and scanty information on how effective curfews and lockdowns have been in breaking transmission have amplified coordination and planning challenges in Kenyas response to COVID-19. Without accurate data, it is impossible t...

Farkhad Akhmedov: Calculating the price of impunity from the law

In insistences such as the battle over the Luna, Akhmedov has resorted to extreme legal machinations to subvert the High Courts decision and keep his assets from being seized. ...

Guinea’s elections hearken back to the autocracy and violence of its past

... ...

Videos

Latest News

India's central bank chief tests positive for coronavirus

Indias central bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Sunday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest high profile name in the country to contract the virus. I have tested Covid-19 positive. Asymptomatic. Feeling very much alri...

Eighth round of Corps Commander level talks between India, China likely this week

India and China are likely to hold the eighth round of Corps Commander talks this week for disengagement and de-escalation along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh. The eighth round of talks are likely to be held this week for whi...

Malaysia's king rejects emergency rule in blow to PM Muhyiddin

Malaysias King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected on Sunday a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for him to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus crisis, saying that he did not see the need.The kings rejection is a ma...

Pakistan could be next polio-free nation, says WHO

Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, the World Health Organisation has said. Pakistan is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.Attempts to eradicate ...

Give Feedback