Wildlife officials suspect a bacterial disease may be responsible for the deaths of more than 30 elephants in Zimbabwe since late August.
The elephants were found lying on their stomachs, which led experts to believe they died suddenly. The park officials first noted that the elephants were victims of poaching, because their tusks were not removed.
So far, about 23 elephants have been found in and around forests between the Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls, according to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPMWA), noting that they believe there may still be others that have not yet been found.
Post-mortem examinations of some of the elephants found they had inflamed livers and other organs.
“[It is] unlikely that this disease alone will have any serious overall impact on the survival of the elephant population,” said ZPMWA Director-General Fulton Mangwanya. “The north-west regions of Zimbabwe have an over-abundance of elephants and this outbreak of disease and this outbreak of disease is probably a manifestation of that, particularly in the hot, dry season elephants are stressed by competition for water and food sources.”
Earlier this year, hundreds of elephants were also found dead in Botswana. Officials says a total of 330 elephants are now known to have died from ingesting cyanobacteria, which is a toxic bacteria which can occur naturally in standing water and sometimes grow into large blooms known as blue-green algae.
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