Botswana receives results on Elephant mysterious deaths

By Bokani King

The government of Botswana hopes to make a breakthrough this week in the mystery surrounding the deaths of hundreds of its elephant herd in the Seronga area, up the Panhandle of the Okavango Delta.

This follows the arrival of the long-awaited scientific results on the possible causes of the samples taken from carcasses that died of the mysterious disease and from live animals that exhibited symptoms of an unknown disease. As of Friday, last week, the officially tally of dead elephants was pegged at 281.

Although the affected area shares the border with Namibia’s Caprivi Strip which is home to the famous Bambwata National Reserve, authorities have revealed that no elephant mortalities have been recorded in that country.

The government received the first set of results on Thursday last week from a laboratory in Zimbabwe. Acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Dr Oldman Oduetse Koboto said on Friday they will be expecting another set from another of results this week to corroborate the ones they received from Zimbabwe and other stakeholders.

He indicated that they will then be in a position to announce the results after validation and taking into consideration the analysis and investigations done on the ground. Scientific test conducted initially in Botswana have ruled out Anthrax as a cause.

Dr Koboto has further said the results will determine government’s next course of action in addressing the situation of dying elephants.

During a media tour to Seronga on Thursday last week, Acting Director in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Dr Cyril Taolo said samples collected had been sent to South Africa and Canada for further analysis.

Taolo told the media that the private sector has played a vital role in the process by absorbing some of the costs of transporting the samples outside the country.

The deaths were first on reported on April 25th and have been confined to the Panhandle in the Okavango Sub district mainly around Seronga, Gunotsoga, Beetsha and Eretsha villages. Since, the first carcasses were found, Seronga Village which has a small airstrip has become the most visited in the area as delegations from government, media and private researchers frequent the area. The village leadership and community has been engaged to share the indigenous knowledge on the species in the area.

Meanwhile the Department of Wildlife has begun an exercise to remove tasks from the carcasses and had by Friday removed 124 tasks. This is done concurrently with the ongoing aerial survey, which is aimed at determining whether more animals are still succumbing. and identifying fresh carcasses

The mortalities are currently only confined to elephants, as no other species have been found dead. Communities in the area have also been cautioned against getting in contact with carcasses.

These elephant mortalities have attracted a huge international conservation attention, generating a lot of theories on the possible cause the deaths.

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