The African country of Botswana has recorded the death of 275 elephants in recent weeks. Two weeks back, the figure was 154. These came to light for the first time some months earlier in the Okavango Panhandle region. The authorities have ruled out poaching considering the physical condition of the intact carcasses. Poachers would have removed body parts. There was no sign of any such activity. Given the nature of the discovery, the ministry has identified some laboratories to examine samples from the dead animals to establish possible reasons. These laboratories are in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Canada.

ABC AU says a conservation organization, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), conducted its own aerial survey. The survey revealed that dying elephants belonged to all ages. EWB count was 169 dead elephants on May 25, and another 187 on June 14. An official of the organization said - "Several live elephants that we observed appeared to be weak, lethargic, and emaciated. Some elephants appeared disorientated, had difficulty walking, showed signs of partial paralysis, or a limp." He mentioned that one elephant was walking in circles, unable to change direction even though it was being encouraged by others of its herd. He feels the matter needs urgent investigation to establish whether these could be due to some disease or due to poisoning.

Botswana sees rise in elephant numbers

The elephant population in Africa is dropping due to poaching. However, in Botswana, it is just the opposite. It is home to nearly one-third of the total population of Africa and saw a dramatic rise in numbers in the late 1990s. They have become a menace and a nuisance value to farmers because they destroy crops, and there is continuous man-animal conflict.

ABC AU says President Mokgweetsi Masisi had done away with a five-year ban on big game hunting in Botswana in May last year.

The decision was a result of changed circumstances. The intention was to encourage hunters to eliminate the animals, but it did not produce results. Global Travel restrictions due to coronavirus played spoilsport. Hunters from many coronavirus-hit countries, who wanted to take advantage of such an opportunity, we're unable to enter Botswana.

Elephant deaths in Botswana a mystery

According to The BBC, Botswana is worried about the "completely unprecedented" loss of hundreds of elephants since May due to unexplained reasons. The government has launched an investigation because there is no apparent clue to the mysterious phenomenon. The carcasses were in the Okavango Delta and had been accumulating over the past two months.

Dr. Niall McCann, associated with the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, told a section of the media that local conservationists observed this and alerted the government in early May. Subsequent flights over the region revealed the condition of the dead and dying animals. Dr. McCann said - "This is totally unprecedented in terms of numbers of elephants dying in a single event unrelated to drought."

A real problem for Botswana

The BBC goes on to add that in May, the government of Botswana ruled out poaching. This conclusion is based on the fact the tusks were not removed.

Dr. McCann observes that only elephants are affected. He argues that if these were cases of cyanide poisoning, there would have been the death of other animals. The targets were the pachyderms. It could be a conservation disaster related to the water or the soil and its surroundings. It would not be right to treat the issue lightly. Aerial photographs of the dying animals would indicate disturbed neurological systems of the victims. The doctor reminds us that in the opinion of experts, animals were responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

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