Bacteria found in water and moist soils is being blamed for the deaths of 330 elephants in Botswana.
- Authorities say cyanobacteria caused the deaths of 330 elephants in Botswana
- The first reports of mass deaths came in May, when a group of 169 were found
- Botswana is home to roughly one third of Africa’s elephants
In July, authorities revealed 281 elephants in the country had mysteriously died.
The number has since been revised to 330.
The country’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks announced on Monday bacteria called cyanobacteria was behind their deaths.
The department’s principal veterinary officer Mmadi Reuben said there were, however, still many unanswered questions.
“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water,” the veterinary officer said, adding officials were unsure why only that area was affected.
“We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”
Botswana has about one third of Africa’s elephant population with about 130,000.
Authorities became concerned in May when a group of 169 elephants were found dead, and another 187 in June.
Poachers were ruled out as a cause of the elephants’ deaths because their carcasses remained untouched.
The initial investigation was launched after conservation group, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), reported deaths during an aerial survey.
At the time, EWD director Mike Chase said many elephants appeared “weak, lethargic and emaciated”.
“Some elephants appeared disorientated, had difficulty walking, showed signs of partial paralysis or a limp,” he said.
“One elephant was observed walking in circles, unable to change direction although being encouraged by other herd members.”
Earlier this month, authorities in neighbouring Zimbabwe suspected a bacterial infection had killed 22 elephants.