Elephants found dead in Okavango panhandle

About 16 elephants have reportedly been found dead in Botswana’s Okavango panhandle. The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism has said it is highly likely the elephants died from anthrax, although local veterinarians have ruled it out. While there are fears the elephants may have been poisoned, it is also common for elephants around the Ngamiland and Chobe to die from anthrax.

The Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Dr OldMan Koboto revealed investigations are ongoing and samples from the carcasses will determine the real cause of death. The Botswana safari News Facebook page has quoted yet another source pointing out the fact that the carcasses being discovered near villages with all their tusks intact rules out the possibility of poaching. The source further highlighted the fact Human-Wildlife Conflict incidents are common around this time of the year strengthens the possibility of poisoning. 

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) continues to conduct investigations to determine the cause of death. At this stage, it remains unclear if the deaths are related to poaching. The DWNP on Friday released a statement warning of elephant mortalities in areas surrounding Seronga, Gunotsoga and Eretsha. The statement warned the public against eating the meat from the carcasses because the animals dying of unknown causes could pose a health hazard.

At least 16 carcasses found – could be up to 22

The Regional Wildlife Coordinator, Dimakatso Ntshebe has stated that the search for more dead elephants around the Okavango panhandle is ongoing. Ntshebe said as of Friday, they had counted 16 carcasses, while sources on the ground place the number closer to 22.

“I can not rule out the number has increased because we are still counting using a boat and plane,” Ntshebe said in response to the discrepancy.

Ntshebe explained in an interview with Botswana Safari News that they had to use a plane and boat because some of the carcasses are in hard to get to islands. He further noted that postmortem samples were conducted on Wednesday and sent to the national veterinary lab. He said he was not in a position to reveal when the results would be ready. Ntshebe stated that should the results confirm the elephants died of anthrax, they would destroy all the carcasses. If the elephants were poisoned, further investigations would ensue, he said.

Botswana has the largest elephant population in the world attributed to several reasons including the government’s stringent protection and anti-poaching policies and civil unrest in neighbouring countries. Despite Botswana’s concerted efforts and achievements recorded over the years, poaching activities have not stopped, as poachers continue to target rhinos, elephants and other endangered species across the country’s national parks.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) appeals to the public to report sightings of carcasses to 6876823 or 6876015, the nearest DWNP office, the Police, the BDF or their local Kgotla.

Reference: Botswana safari News

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