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Botswana Elephant Die-Off
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From other reports, more than 400 are estimated dead. Anthrax has been ruled out and the best guess at this time is Encephalomyocarditis as the elephants are literally falling over dead.

The article below has more of the facts, but is also written from a disgruntled conservationist point of view so don't believe everything. Not sure the government is actually dragging its feet but probably trying to downplay this as much as possible. Regardless it is a clusterfuck of note at the moment as Botswana was opening hunting back up. With this die-off that might look more and more unlikely.

TIA

quote:

Botswana's government is stalling efforts to get to the bottom of 350 mysterious elephant deaths, conservationists say

Mia Jankowicz Jul 5, 2020, 8:12 AM

Aerial views of elephants that have been found dead in Botswana National Park Rescue
Botswana's government is dragging its feet in trying to learn the cause of the sudden death of hundreds of elephants, conservationists say.
Almost 400 elephants have dropped dead since early May. Nobody knows why.
After weeks of government inaction, tests have only just been sent to laboratories, where it is not certain the samples will be any use, according to conservation charity National Park Rescue.
Co-founder Mark Hiley told Business Insider that it is "one of the biggest disasters to impact elephants this century."

Authorities in Botswana are dragging their heels in efforts to investigate the sudden death of at least 350 elephants in the space of two months, conservationists told Business Insider.

It is not certain if the mysterious deaths, which have seen some elephants fall on their faces and never get up again, are attributable to poachers, according to UK-based conservation organization National Park Rescue.

There are several possible causes. But weeks of inaction from the Botswana administration means elephants are continuing to die with no answers available, said Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue's co-founder.

President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
Mokgweetsi Masisi, president of Botswana, addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Ecotourism is second only to diamonds in the country's GDP, Hiley wrote in comments emailed to Business Insider. "It's one of the biggest disasters to impact elephants this century, and right in the middle of one of Africa's top tourism destinations," he added.

Conservationists have urged Botwsana to act, and offered funding and other support, Hiley said, to no avail. He said officials government hesitated weeks before even sending samples from the elephants to be tested.

Botswana's president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was elected in late 2019 on a platform that included the decriminalizing of trophy hunting, according to The New York Times, and said he will prioritize the needs of Botswana's people over concern from other countries for its wildlife.

What's happened so far:

In early May, 12 elephants were found dead in a cluster spanning two villages in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, according to Phys.org. The government announced an investigation, the site reported.
Following the discovery of 44 more carcasses, conservationists surveyed the area in an aircraft and saw 169 dead elephants within three hours.

On May 27, officials visited to take samples for testing, according to Hiley. As Botswana does not have its own testing capacity, they needed to be sent abroad.

Initially, the government said it would send them to a lab in Pretoria, South Africa, but instead sent them to a lab in northern Botswana, according to Hiley. Hiley described the lab as "unqualified" to handle them.
On June 19, a Facebook post on "Botswana Safari News" carried a statement from Wildlife Coordinator Dimakatso Ntshebe saying that international organizations should "not just criticize but help." He said that samples had been taken from vegetation and water consumed by the elephants, as well as from their carcasses.

Samples have now reached Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, but by now they will be old and "of dubious origin," Hiley said.

"The government would normally respond within days to an event of this scale," he said, adding: "The inaction, and the refusal to accept the expertise and resources offered, is only causing more deaths."

Hiley said testing of this kind needs a documented "chain of custody" which assures the sample's origin at every stage.

"We need an independent team of experts to go in, sample the blood, tissue, spleen, liver, and stomach contents of multiple carcasses, plus take soil, water and other environmental samples," he wrote.

"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," National Park Rescue's McCann told The Guardian.

Botswana is home to around 130,000 elephants, Africa's highest population of the animals, according to the BBC. However, numbers are in decline and the animals are classed as vulnerable, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Around 10,000 of those live in the grassy Okavango Delta, which floods seasonally.


At his election, President Masisi said he was putting the needs of the country's population ahead of how western countries value the animals, The New York Times reported. The country auctioned off its first elephant hunting licenses in February 2020, the BBC reported.

"Botswana was one of the last safe havens for elephants so it's a tragic turn of events for one of the most persecuted species on the planet," Hiley said.

The question of what is killing so many elephants so quickly is still unsolved. As Business Insider reported, cyanide poisoning by poachers is considered unlikely, as is anthrax, which killed 100 elephants in October 2019. And as there are no COVID-19 cases for around 800 miles, this is also unlikely, Hiley said.

"Conservationists on the ground have reported horrific scenes of dying elephants walking around in circles, and others dying flat on their faces, suggesting something impacting brain function," Hiley said.

"The position of the bodies and the fact that some living elephants were seen to be losing their motor functions seems to indicate that this toxin, whatever it is, is affecting their nervous system," he added.

The possibility that an unknown pathogen is causing the deaths is as much a worry for humans as it is for elephants in the coronavirus era, he said.

Business Insider has contacted Botswana's Ministry of Environment and Department of National Parks and Wildlife, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.


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Posts: 20813 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Read Ron Thompson’s take on the situation. Simply put, I believe he thinks they are dying of malnutrition. Plan and simple. And, from what I understand, he thinks this is going to continue until the elephant population comes more in line with the carrying capacity of the environment.
At least this is what I took from the article I saw fro him.
 
Posts: 467 | Location: Farmington, New Mexico | Registered: 05 January 2008Reply With Quote
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If it was starvation it wouldn't be isolated to one species. Plus this is happening in the Okavango Delta which benefited from good rainfall this year.

The reports are of a neurological effect as some have been walking in circles and confused before dying, others are simply dying on their feet.

There was an anthrax die-off earlier in the year, but this one is much more extensive.

Whatever it is, it's wiping out a lot of elephants and does not appear to be slowing down. The hope is this doesn't move north into the Caprivi Strip.


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Posts: 20813 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Overcrowding leads to rapid transmission of disease......New York and covid?


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Posts: 36164 | Location: Crosby and Barksdale, Texas | Registered: 18 September 2006Reply With Quote
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quote:
The reports are of a neurological effect as some have been walking in circles and confused before dying, others are simply dying on their feet.


Could the culprit be the water hyacinth?
 
Posts: 1228 | Registered: 06 September 2008Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Opus1:
If it was starvation it wouldn't be isolated to one species. Plus this is happening in the Okavango Delta which benefited from good rainfall this year.

The reports are of a neurological effect as some have been walking in circles and confused before dying, others are simply dying on their feet.

There was an anthrax die-off earlier in the year, but this one is much more extensive.

Whatever it is, it's wiping out a lot of elephants and does not appear to be slowing down. The hope is this doesn't move north into the Caprivi Strip.


I was chatting with a friend in bots and she said some die so fast they don’t fall on their side, just plop straight down. Very strange.
 
Posts: 6423 | Registered: 31 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Botswana finds more dead elephants, says test results due this week

By Brian Benza

SERONGA, Botswana (Reuters) - Botswana wildlife officials investigating hundreds of unexplained elephant deaths have verified six more carcasses and say it is still not clear what is killing the animals, around two months after the first bodies were spotted.

Officials told reporters near the Okavango Delta on Thursday that they had now verified 281 carcasses and that the deaths were concentrated in an area of 8,000 square km that is home to about 18,000 elephants.

Flying over the area in a helicopter, a Reuters reporter saw one carcass splattered in droppings from vultures, which had eaten some of the flesh, and red paint from officials marking verified carcasses. Hundreds of live elephants wandered nearby.

“We are not dealing with a common thing, it looks like it’s a rare cause,” said Mmadi Reuben, principal veterinary officer at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, adding the death rate in the affected area was below 2%.

“We cannot rule out anything at this stage, it could be a virus, vegetation, overnutrition after last year’s drought ... We have asked the community not to interact with the carcasses.”

He said officials were expecting to receive test results this week on samples sent to South Africa and Canada.

Some campaign groups have criticised the government for acting too slowly to solve the mystery of the dying elephants, an accusation Reuben has denied.

Although the number of deaths so far represents a fraction of the estimated 130,000 elephants in Botswana, there are fears more could die if authorities cannot establish the cause soon.

Wave Kashweka, a senior veterinary officer in Botswana’s North-West district, said officials had found elephants which appeared to have died recently, adding aerial surveys would try to find more carcasses.

In their initial inquiries, authorities ruled out poaching and anthrax among possible causes.

Cyril Taolo, acting director of the wildlife department, said the government had contacted neighbours Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia but they had not seen similar elephant deaths.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow from 80,000 in the late 1990s.

Writing by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Editing by Janet Lawrence


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Posts: 862 | Location: West River at Heart | Registered: 08 April 2012Reply With Quote
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Sounds like nitrate/nitrite toxicity.

Or...possibly prussic acid toxicity.

Both more common in ruminants and less likely in hind-gut fermenters like ele (prussic acid way less).


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Posts: 26099 | Location: Gainesville, TX | Registered: 24 December 2006Reply With Quote
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The general feeling I get from vets/scientists in the area is that it is likely encephalomyocarditis virus-1 (EMCV-1).


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Posts: 26099 | Location: Gainesville, TX | Registered: 24 December 2006Reply With Quote
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Posts: 948 | Location: Arizona | Registered: 09 January 2005Reply With Quote
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But wait, sooner or later it will be blamed on Global Warming and hunting.

Lane, based on the field reports Encephalomyocarditis is the most likely culprit. If so, the disease vector must be identified and hope like hell it doesn't spread.


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Posts: 20813 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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It is interesting that the only animals mentioned is elephants.

I was reading where there should be some primates laying around, or they were just not found in time for a sample.

If this is spread by water and food, a concern would be to other animals and the outlying population becoming infected.


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Posts: 862 | Location: West River at Heart | Registered: 08 April 2012Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Opus1:
But wait, sooner or later it will be blamed on Global Warming and hunting.

Lane, based on the field reports Encephalomyocarditis is the most likely culprit. If so, the disease vector must be identified and hope like hell it doesn't spread.


Maybe the vector are the elephants themselves, because they live at such high densities in that area.
 
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Any update on this ?
 
Posts: 412 | Location: Ireland | Registered: 12 May 2004Reply With Quote
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The most recent update I have had from the field is they are pretty confident it was not Anthrax this time. New samples were sent to the UK and they are waiting on results. They are leaning towards a Encephalomyocarditis vs a poison, but until the labs are completed, it's a best guess at the moment.

The only good news is it does not seem to be spreading North.


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Posts: 20813 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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I believe rats are the reservoir for EMCV. Curious as to how it makes the leap.


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Posts: 26099 | Location: Gainesville, TX | Registered: 24 December 2006Reply With Quote
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However it's accomplished, it wouldn't be suitable for children to watch. The poor rats...


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Posts: 20813 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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I just found this.

What killed hundreds of elephants in Botswana? Still unknown

By SELLO MOTSETA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Botswana’s government says it still doesn’t know what caused the deaths of hundreds of elephants in recent weeks, but testing continues.
Poaching and anthrax have been ruled out as the likely cause. Other possibilities being examined include a novel virus and poisoning. The investigation involves help from laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Britain and the United States.

“While there has not been any indication of fresh carcasses or signs that the mortality has spread beyond the initial area of concern, the district team on the ground will continue to monitor the situation, remove ivory from carcasses and take them to safe custody as well as destroy carcasses that are close to the villages and human settlements,” the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Oduetse Koboto, told diplomats Saturday.

The investigations, including an aerial survey, are expected to be completed this week.

Botswana’s National Veterinary Laboratory has not been able to establish the causes of death despite examining 281 of the elephant carcasses found in the popular Okavango Delta area of the country’s north.

This is “one of the biggest disasters to impact elephants this century, and right in the middle of one of Africa’s top tourism destinations,” the director of conservation group National Park Rescue, Mark Hiley, has saidl.

Botswana has the world’s highest population of elephants with more than 156,000 counted in a 2013 aerial survey in the north.


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Posts: 862 | Location: West River at Heart | Registered: 08 April 2012Reply With Quote
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https://globalnews.ca/news/724...aths-botswana-toxin/


Link has video.



Mysterious mass elephant deaths in Botswana possibly linked to toxin

By Brian Benza Reuters
Posted July 31, 2020 3:28 pm
Updated July 31, 2020 4:04 pm

News: Natural toxin may explain mysterious deaths of elephants in Botswana, wildlife official says


A wildlife official this week said the mysterious death of hundreds of elephants in Botswana over the past two months was possibly due to a naturally-occurring toxin, adding that preliminary tests showed it was unlikely to be due to an infectious disease.

Preliminary tests to explain the reason for hundreds of mysterious elephant deaths in Botswana point to a naturally occurring toxin as a probable cause, a senior wildlife official told Reuters.

It was highly unlikely that an infectious disease was behind the shocking deaths of at least 281 elephants, added Cyril Taolo, acting director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Officials had been struggling to establish the cause of death more than two months after the first carcasses were spotted in the Okavango Panhandle region.


Initial investigations appeared to rule out common causes like poaching and anthrax.

“We have received more test results from other countries including the United States, and so far the results show that it’s highly unlikely that the cause could be an infectious pathogen,” Taolo said.



“Our main attention … is now on investigating broader environmental factors such as naturally produced toxins from bacteria that are found in the environment, such as water bodies.”

The government has sent samples to laboratories in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States for tests.

As of last week it had received results from bacterial detection and toxicology tests in Botswana, histopathology tests in South Africa, and bacterial detection and histopathology tests in Zimbabwe.



Taolo said toxicology results were expected from South Africa soon.

“It’s a game of elimination where we start testing the most common causes and then move on to the less common ones. We then have to verify and corroborate these results from different laboratory tests. We are hoping to provide a more concrete update tomorrow,” he said.

The elephant deaths have concerned some conservationists, who fear deaths could spiral out of control if a cause cannot be established quickly.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.


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