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Cyanobacteria cited as reason for elephant deaths in Botswana

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The death of more than 300 elephants in Botswana early this year was due to ingestion of water-borne bacteria and was not caused by poaching activity, according to experts.

Experts briefed the media on Monday, 21 September 2020, on the outcome of tests conducted on samples taken from the more than 330 elephants that died between June and July. Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks Principal Veterinary Officer, Mmadi Reuben said the elephants are now known to have died from ingesting cyanobacteria.

“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water,” Reuben said. He said the deaths “stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of (water) pans.”

Cyanobacteria are a group of photosynthetic bacteria that live in a wide variety of moist soils and water.

Reuben said there were, however, still many unanswered questions.

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

Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s declining elephant population.



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