September 23, 2020 - 12:09 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The mystery surrounding hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana seems to have been solved and the findings bring an end to months of speculation on why at least 330 elephants were found dead in the northwestern region of the Southern African country earlier this year.
Initially, possible explanations over the deaths had ranged from poaching to anthrax to poisoning. Now, however, the country has pointed to toxic blooms of cyanobacteria, a naturally occurring neurotoxin and biological phenomenon which has increased due to climate change, according to Mmadi Reuben, principal veterinary officer at the Botswana department of wildlife and national parks, GMA reports.
“As in so many other situations, such as the wildfires in California and Oregon and the floods in the U.K., climate change is the threat multiplier,” Dr Niall McCann, co-founder of U.K.-based charity National Park Rescue, told ABC News. “Climate change and the effect of global warming on the region is increasing both the intensity and severity of harmful algal blooms, making this issue more likely to reoccur.”
“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are anaerobe bacteria found in water of seasonal water pans” Mmadi Reuben told ABC News by phone from Gaborone, the country’s capital.
They spent months studying samples from the carcasses, environmental samples from soil and water as well as samples from the live animals and sent them to specialized regional laboratories as well as laboratories in the U.S., Canada and Europe, according to Reuben.
Most carcasses, spotted by aerial surveys, were found clustered around water sources close to the Okavango Delta which, in normal times, is a major tourist safari destination. Some animals were even seen walking dizzily in circles before suddenly dying.