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Over 350 Elephants in Africa's Botswana die from unknown causes

About 70% of the elephant carcasses were found near watering holes with ivory tusks still intact

Updated: July 2, 2020 - 4:32pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Over 350 elephants have died from unknown causes in northern Botswana in what scientists are calling a “conservation disaster.” 

The government has not been able to test the tissue samples because of logistical issues due to coronavirus pandemic. However, three universities in Southern Africa plan to do that analysis. 

Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks has stated that the "worldwide coronavirus pandemic has impeded the government’s ability to get answers." 

“Covid-19 restrictions have not helped in the transportation of samples in the region and around the world,” Dr. Cyril Taolo, the department's acting director said. “We’re now beginning to emerge from that and that is why we are now in a position to send the samples to other laboratories.

The Botswana embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed to Just the News that in early May a dozen or so elephants died mysteriously in the Okavango Delta. 

By June, over 200 elephants had perished in the same area, but the tusks were still intact so it is unlikely that poachers were involved. 

Whatever is causing this devastation is affecting elephants of all ages and both sexes. Nearly 70% of the elephants reportedly fell to their deaths around watering holes. 

Poachers have been known to use cyanide poisoning, but there is no evidence of scavengers like hyenas left for dead near the elephant carcasses. 

“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,” said Dr. Niall McCann, the director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue.

Africa’s elephant population has been drastically reduced by poachers in the last two decades, according to Elephant Without Borders' 18-country aerial study.

An alarming 30% of the elephants were killed from 2007 to 2014. 

Botswana is home to about 130,000 elephants, which is about one-third of the overall elephant population in Africa. 

Roughly 15,000 savannah elephants roam in the Okavango Delta. 

In 2014, Botswana President Ian Khama instituted a ban on big-game hunting. By 2019, the ban was lifted that opened the market for sport hunters, sparking major concern from conservationists and photographic African safari experts. 


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