For the past few months we’ve been following the ongoing investigation in Botswana surrounding the mysterious deaths of more than 350 elephants. The large number of those deaths has been concerning of course, but more importantly it is the unexplained nature of the fatalities that has made them so concerning. To date, there has yet to be a definitive explanation as to how those creatures died, as researchers have ruled out poaching, cyanide poisoning, anthrax, and a number of known diseases. Right now, the closest guess they have is “natural toxins” in the environment although research and investigation is ongoing. Fortunately, the elephant deaths in Botswana have seemed to have ceased, although conservationists remain on alert. Now, officials in neighboring Zimbabwe have reason for concern too however, as it has been revealed that 11 elephants in that country have been found dead as well.
As with Botswana, investigators have ruled out both poaching and cyanide, but the cause of death remains unknown. So far, all of the carcasses have been found in a forest in western Zimbabwe, indicating that the cause of death—at least for now— is somewhat regionally contained. All of the bodies were discovered last Friday in an area between Hwange national park and Victoria Falls. This isn’t particularly close to where the Botswana elephants perished, although it is still unclear if their is any connection between the two incidences.
Blood samples have been taken from the elephant bodies and sent off to research labs for further examination. Zimbabwean officials are now waiting for the results, hoping they can determine the cause of death. Like their Botswanan counterparts, they’re eager to get to the bottom of this mystery in order to protect the other elephants within their borders. Should the results come back as “inconclusive,” as they have so far, the concern for what is killing these animals will likely only grow.
I’ll continue to keep an eye on this story as it develops and more information becomes available.