Zimbabwe’s Elephants May Have Died From Bacterial Infection

Zimbabwe has ruled out poaching and cyanide poisoning as cause of the deaths of 11 young elephants found dead in a game reserve.

Carcasses of the 11 elephants were found on Friday, 28 August 2020 in Pandamasuwe Forest in western Zimbabwe, between Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.

Following an investigation, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) said the mammals could have contracted a deadly bacterial infection while searching for food.

Columbus Chaitezvi, Zimparks’ principal veterinary officer, added that they are yet to discover what kind of bacterial the elephants contracted.

“As the country enters the hot summer season, food becomes scarce and younger elephants tend to eat grass and burrow into the soil, exposing themselves to harmful bacteria, he said.

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Zimparks spokesman Tinashe Farawo said the dead elephants were aged between five years, six years and less than 18 months.

“You can see that those young ones can’t reach for tree tops, so they end up eating anything, which in some cases can be poisonous,” Farawo said.

The mysterious deaths followed Botswana’s report of the death of more than 200 elephants in June. An official with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust laboratory said there were no similarities in the deaths in both countries.

However, there are no conclusive answers to the deaths in Botswana.

Conservationists estimate that Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, about a fifth of Africa’s total. Total numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

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