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  • Aerial view of a death elephant in the Okavango river's delta. Botswana. July 2, 2020.

    Aerial view of a death elephant in the Okavango river's delta. Botswana. July 2, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @MxUlysses

Published 30 July 2020
Opinion

In early July, wildlife experts found elephant carcasses in the Okavango Panhandle region. The investigators dismissed poaching as the cause after finding the tusks in the remains.

Botswana Wildlife and National Parks Department’s director Cyril Taolo Thursday briefed natural toxins are likely to cause the mysterious elephant deaths.

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“Our main attention ... is now on investigating broader environmental factors such as naturally produced toxins from bacteria that are found in the environment, such as water bodies,” Taolo stated.

Botswana authorities sent samples to South Africa, the United States, and Zimbabwe laboratories for a compared testing.

Preliminary results from histopathology and toxicology tests suggest that the environmental factors might be the cause of the deaths,  instead of infection or human activity. 

“It’s a game of elimination where we start testing the most common causes and then move on to the less common ones. We then have to verify and corroborate these results from different laboratory tests. We are hoping to provide a more concrete update tomorrow,” Taolo added.

In early July, wildlife experts found elephant carcasses in the Okavango Panhandle region. The investigators dismissed poaching as the cause after finding the tusks in the remains. About 300 specimens have died.

Experts estimate Africa’s elephant population near 350,000, but the figure can be lower due to habitat’s invasion and illegal hunting. Botswana houses about a third, but after lifting hunting’s ban, the specie is under severe risk. 

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