DEVELOPING STORY: The elephants recently discovered mysteriously dead in the Okavango panhandle have reportedly tested negative for anthrax.
This was confirmed by the Regional Wildlife Coordinator, Dimakatso Ntshebe who revealed that the much anticipated results came in last Wednesday but failed to ascertain which other pathogens led to the deaths. Ntshebe said following the first tests, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and Veterinary Services the second batch of comprehensive tests were later carried out, with hopes that the results would shed light on the cause of deaths.
The plot thickened on Saturday when the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism announced that over 110 elephants had died in the panhandle area. This took the death from the 48 we reported on May 19.
Earlier, officials had suspected that the elephants may have been poisoned as a result of the Human-Wildlife Conflict. But some observers have dismissed this because many farmers in the area are likely to have finished harvesting. Poaching has also been ruled out as all the carcasses were found with their tusks intact.
The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism statement also announced Minister Phelda Kerekang last Friday visited Seronga, one of the hardest-hit villages in the Okavango Panhandle, on a fact-finding mission regarding the dead elephants. Beetsha, Eretsha and Gunotsoga are also sites that Minister Kerekang visited. The Minister was briefed by a team comprising Wildlife Officers, Veterinary Doctors, village leaders, the Botswana Defence Force and the Botswana Police.
The mysterious deaths were first reported on May 11. Investigations are still ongoing.