Nat Geo Has Theories On Why Elephants are Dying in Botswana

Last week I shared the story of how hundreds of elephants are dying of mysterious and unknown causes in Botswana. The creatures appear to take ill very quickly, possibly with some kind of neurological disorder, then die from this strange affliction almost as rapidly. From the air, dozens of bodies have been spotted, leaving conservationists and researchers completely baffled as to what is causing this sudden loss of life amongst the elephant herds. But now, National Geographic has shared some theories as to why this is happening with experts looking to get to the bottom of this mystery before it becomes even worse.

While research into the situation is still ongoing, the preliminary thoughts on what is happening to these elephants based on past elephant die-offs has narrowed down the possibilities to a few options. Those include ingestion of toxic bacteria in water, anthrax poisoning, poisoning by humans, viral infection from rodents, or a pathogenic microbe. Scientists haven’t ruled out that it could be a combination of several of these factors, potentially brought on by heavy rainfalls following a years-long drought in Botswana. The Nat Geo article takes a deeper look at what each of those possibilities could mean in terms of further impact on the elephant herd and the longterm health of other animals.

Samples taken from the carcasses of a number of the creatures have been sent to labs in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Officials from Botswana say they have already received the preliminary results, but are waiting for follow up tests to confirm the findings. That suggests that they have a good idea of what is happening to the elephants, but are taking a cautious approach to revealing the cause. Either way, it seems that we can expect more concrete news on this story in the very near future.

So far, the deaths of the elephants have all taken place in a relatively small area, covering roughly 1000 square miles (2590 sq. km—thanks Bruce!) located to the northeast of the famed Okavango Delta. This area is said to be home to some 18,000 elephants, so while 300+ deaths is cause for concern, it isn’t a significant impact on the population there. Botswana’s elephant herds are massive compared to even other parts of Africa, where the creatures have often been hunted by poachers. Of the 350,000 wild elephants that are believed to still exist on the continent, 130,000 live within Botswana itself. Still, by discovering the cause of the die-off now, the hope is to cut it off quickly and prevent other animals from suffering the same fate. The number of deaths that have taken place so far may be an insignificant number of the entire population, but if we’ve learned one thing recently, it’s that a strange virus can spread very quickly. Hopefully that won’t be the case here.

64 thoughts on “Nat Geo Has Theories On Why Elephants are Dying in Botswana”

  1. Why? Are the Whales & Elephants.
    Dying..off.
    Really….m?
    Two..of the oldest..mamals.
    In our world!!!???
    Veryyy..strange..indeed!

      • That could be correct they have served there time on Earth now maybe they will become extinct slowely over a period of time. Or like so many other species on this Earth man has driven then to the brink of extinction than God for zoo mAn made as they are our feble attempt may keep a few survive

        • The Coronavirus’s success is the answer to that. We are too many and the world is too dense populated with enormous cities.

          • Amen to that!! Humans are the plague, and I’m sorry if that offends all of you who think having 20 kids is God’s plan, but I’m pretty sure his plan wasn’t for the rest of his beautiful creatures to go extinct because of us!! Habitat loss is the NUMBER ONE reason for these creatures going extinct. If this ends up being poison by humans, you bet your ass I hope the humans get their come-up-ins!! We need to SLOW down our population growth big time!! Trust me, your genes are not that awesome!!

          • I agree….mankind is using up their natural habitat. They no longer have the ecosystem that helps then thrive. So sad.

    • I’m with you Terri, finding the cause.
      I hope never happens but wish not to be here to see when polar bears or elephants go to extintion

    • Journalism has recently been taken over by 10 year olds. So misleading, so poorly written and shameful

      • Please, don’t insult our 10yr olds – it seems more likely to be grade-school dropouts – for whatever reason – often publishing misleading, sometimes harmful information, ridiculous grammar and spelling, and obviously no pride in what was once a respected, needed position. The major lack of quality in the work presented makes them not-so-needed now; much of their work is a sad sham – painful to read and difficult to understand!

      • I THINK IT MEANS IT IS A MISLEADING TITLE BECAUSE IT CLAIMS THERE ARE THEORIES! SO….. WHAT ARE THEY?! WE ARE ANXIOUS TO KNOW YOUR THEORIES ? ??! CLICK BAIT.

        • As stated in the article “Those include ingestion of toxic bacteria in water, anthrax poisoning, poisoning by humans, viral infection from rodents, or a pathogenic microbe.”

      • SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO A BETTER AND FASTER JOB AT SAVING THESE ELEPHANTS AND ANY OTHER ANIMALS DIEING LIKE THIS YOU ARE TO SLOW IT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR TO LONG !!!!

  2. Humans must help these massive and beautiful creatures,whales and elephants. We have been destroying the waters and lands too long. It belonged to them long before we came along.

      • Where have you read that American vets are banned from assisting? This is a new story to me and would love to see your source.

  3. Could you please expound on the potential reasons for the elephant die-off, ie, viral infection via rodents (what virus, how?)poisoning by humans (accidental or purposefully, what poison, why?), etc. Microbe? Any “guesses”?
    Thank you very much for all your great writing and research. Nat Geo is top of ALL classes!!

    • As mentioned in the blog post, Nat Geo goes into more detail on each of the possibilities in the story linked to above.

      • Point is ……. Anybody could guess a list of potential reasons for the deaths ….. The title of the article suggests that Nat Geo has some deeper insight …… Which is not contained in this article . Anybody can have a guess but we rely on solid investigative journalism to find answers.

        • The other point is, that in the Nat Geo article linked to in the story, they go into depth on each of the possibilities. I’ve even stated that in the blog post. And FYI, the main point of posting this to my blog in the first place was to follow up on the original story from a few weeks back about the elephant die-off. This blog post indicates to regular readers of the site that there is more information to be had, National Geographic is providing it, and to offer a link to where readers can discover more. I’m not the writer of the story from National Geographic and I’m not on the ground in Botswana to do the investigation myself. These aren’t guesses. The Nat Geo story comes from well-educated sources. Have you followed the link provided to read their story?

  4. I thought you were going to tell nat geo theories on why? Thats what the headline implied.

    • The theories from Nat Geo are listed in the blog post, along with a link to their article. As mentioned, NG goes into more detail on each of those possibilities in their story.

        • Except the theories are listed in the article with a link o the Nat Geo story that offers even more in-depth information.

          • Kraig, you display amazing restraint in your answers to the people griping about lack of info, details, etc. I guess some people just want to find fault. I thank you for the articles.

  5. I think this has everything to do with electro magnetic fields, satellites, testing of equipment, technological practices and maybe even the testing of 5G technology. Environmental scientists know what the causes are but I think it cannot be explained for a reason. You cannot see electro magnetic fields or 5G GHz but the damage can fry human flesh or melt tissue. In nature when they do odd things like dolphins beaching themselves, THEY do not understand, but its all this radioactivity and sonars and satellite’s that are causing these problems when its unexplained.

      • The original observation that this article is clickbait is correct pure and simple. The article does imply that National Geo has narrowed down the causes of death. All theories merely repeat themselves from last weeks article. This is blatantly misleading and the article is fluff. It does not matter that a link is cited. It merely reiterates a list of potential causes for their deaths. Please tend to your faulty logic, small ego, and obvious need to have the last word. The observation that the article is misleading is spot on.. In essence, spare me another article until a real definitive conclusion is reached.

  6. How about the power of god it is written animal in large quantities will die along with water life animals good luck open your eye were in the end times. Believe what you want but it is coming.

  7. Ugggg….the issue is real, dismissing it to journalistic techniques may disuade your consciousness from feeling empathy. But the fact that humans and yes “all of us” are fueling a collapsing ecosystem should be firemost in your thoughts on this and other issues. No wildlife no ecosystem no ecosystem no humans everything is literally connected.
    We will not find permanent solutions because humans keep spitting out offspring.

  8. I felt very sad about the news of 100s of death Elephants; sided to the news of bondage Baby Elephants Tortured and slaved in Asia Africa and China. After briefly looked into Baby Elephants Tortured and killed in the Internet I discovered how Elephants are treated in their own land. Sad story Humans up there are the cause of such pain and crimes on Wild life. The 100s Elephants in Botswana most have been poisoned by humans. It’s my guess. The evidence is unknown to me. However the Baby Elephants Tortured and killed Videos and pictures are well documented in the Internet. I am very sorry for their victimization.

  9. So many haters in the comments! I was curious to hear the follow up story on the elephants’ mysterious demise. Your article answered that. Great article, thanks for sharing!

  10. I am a Botswana national living in Gaborone. There is high possibility of human poisoning(whether accidental or deliberate I cannot determine). There is a construction of a bridge at a village called Mohembo in the Okavango enclave that is ongoing. My suspicion is that the construction has contaminated the water because of machinery and or the products used such as cement etc. If this is the case it would be a sad case of irony because the bridge designers have included “crossed elephant tusks-shaped tower” to the bridge. I am not a Scientist but an English Literature academic so qoute me with caustion. Cheers

  11. Have they looked into it being the herpes virus which can affect elephants in a zoo setting unexpectedly?

  12. I got this article from a friend.

    Why Elephants are Dying in Botswana!

    Ron ThomsonJuly 4, 2020

    Submission to Daily Maverick by Ron Thomson – ARTICLE.2. 2020/07/03

    Over the last several weeks some 400 elephants have (so far this year) died mysterious deaths in Botswana; and the reports suggest that there are many more sick animals wandering about the game reserves. I feel confident enough, at this stage, therefore, to predict that a lot more elephants are going to die before the end of the current dry season. Anthrax and poison have been ruled out as the cause of these deaths. No tusks have been removed from the carcasses. So, poaching seems not to be the reason, either.

    I believe the cause of these deaths is, purely and simply, starvation. I say this with some conviction because I have been predicting that this was going to happen for many years.

    I see these deaths, therefore, as something of an apocalyptic event. They are telling us of a significant elephant die-off that is yet to come. This year? Probably! Next year then? Maybe!

    Let me explain why.

    Read the rest of this article here: https://www.mahohboh.org/why-elephants-are-dying-in-botswana/

    • Kinda like what the the idiots that attend covid parties and then get sick (or die) say.

      It seems to me that there is a lot of mental masturbation going on with the people who are obsessed with click bait issues because they were unable to discern the theories that were clearly spelled out in the article.

  13. Sad,sad,sad,very sad! Please safe our Big boys and girls.of Botswana,whatever the cause,?please put all efforts together for their Survival..All Experts on board pls.pls.

  14. I agree, there is gonna be a new HEAVEN and a new earth, AND THAT’S WHERE THERE HEADING. THERE TIME IS FINISHED DOWN HERE ON PLANET EARTH, NOW THERE GONNA SPEND THE REST OF THEIR TIME IN A MAGICAL, SPECTACULAR, GLORIOUS PLACE 4 EVER, NO MORE DEATH, NO MORE TEARS OR WAR, BUT EVERYTHING IS PURE & PERFECT.

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