The sudden deaths of more than 350 elephants in May and June 2020 in Botswana's Okavango Delta has stumped scientists and researchers. The tuskers were seen lifeless across the northwestern areas of the African nation, with no evident injuries that would suggest possible poaching.
The incident affected the jumbos, showing a disturbing pattern of walking in circles before collapsing on their faces. Additionally, 35 elephants suffered the same fate in Zimbabwe's northern region around two months later.
As per the Guardian, the deaths of elephants in Botswana were due to the unidentified cyanobacterial toxin, said the government official; no other information was revealed. However, the research on the elephants revealed that the cause of sudden deaths was due to a little-known bacterium called Pasteurella bisgaard taxon 45 that resulted in septicaemia, or blood poisoning.
According to the paper issued in the journal Nature Communications, bacterial infection has not before been linked to elephant deaths. Investigators believe the reason behind the deaths could be the same in neighbouring countries. In their report, the researchers said this denotes a vital conservation concern for elephants in the most significant remaining meta-population of this endangered species.
The team, in collaboration with international researchers, including the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, the University of Surrey, and South Africa's research laboratories, authored the report. The team also featured inputs from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) experts from the UK government.
About African elephants
With an alarming rate of 8 per cent, African savannah elephants are declining, mostly due to poaching. The study further suggests that infectious diseases should be added to the list of threats this endangered species faces, with only 350,000 remaining in the woods now.