Botswana officials say the deaths of hundreds of elephants in recent months, which has baffled and alarmed conservationists in the country, have been caused by toxins produced by cyanobacteria in the water.
The government of the landlocked southern African country, home to a third of the continent’s declining elephant population, said in July it had launched an investigation into the mysterious deaths, collecting samples from carcasses and mobilizing personnel and planes to better understand the situation.
“Our latest tests have detected that cyanobacterial neurotoxins are the cause of death. These are bacteria found in the water, ”said Mmadi Reuben, senior veterinarian at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, on Monday.
“However, we still have many questions to be answered, for example why only elephants [died] and why this area only, ”he added. We have a number of hypotheses that we are studying. ”
Addressing the same press conference, Cyril Taolo, deputy director of the department, said the number of dead elephants rose to 330, from 281 last reported in July.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at 130,000.
In neighboring Zimbabwe, more than 20 elephant carcasses were found near its largest game park in early September as authorities suspected they had succumbed to a bacterial infection.