More than 500 endangered vultures have died after eating the poisoned carcasses of three elephants killed by poachers in Botswana, according to a statement by the government.

537 vultures and two tawny eagles were found dead in the north of the African country.

Botswanan wildlife and national parks department did not elaborate when they found the dead vultures on the site and why were the three elephants laced with poison after being killed. However, poachers are known to poison the carcasses to target the vultures that circle in the sky and help rangers track the poaching activities in the area.

468 of the 537 vultures were white-backed vultures, which has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species as a critically endangered animal. Meanwhile 17 of them were white-headed vultures and 28 hooded vultures, which are also critically endangered.

“The poisoning was believed to have been caused by lacing of 3 poached elephant carcasses with a poisonous chemical,” the wildlife department said.

The bodies of the animals were taken in to the laboratory for further analysis.

Botswana recently sparked controversy after it lifted its ban on hunting, saying it would help control its booming elephant population after many farmers protest the animals have been damaging their crops and other livelihoods.

Last week, conservationists have warned them of the surging elephant poaching, where an estimate of 400 were killed for their ivory tusks in 2017 and 2018.

Related stories:
– Elephant hunting ban is lifted in Botswana
– Hundreds of elephants are poached each year in Botswana and is expected to increase after hunting ban has been lifted
– Fearful of elephant attacks, some in Botswana cheer in hunting’s return