16/04/2021

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Botswana probes 275 ‘mysterious’ elephant deaths

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Botswana says it is investigating a staggeringly high number of elephant carcasses 275 found in the popular Okavango Delta area of the southern African nation in recent weeks.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks said it is mobilizing human personnel and aircraft to better understand the “mysterious deaths.”

Lucas Taolo, the department’s acting director said local communities are being advised not to tamper with the dead elephant’s tusks.

We have no reason to dispute the numbers reported and we are continuing to verify reports.

“We have no reason to dispute the numbers reported and we are continuing to verify reports,” Taolo added.

Samples have been collected for analysis at labs in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Canada and anthrax has been ruled out as the cause.

Poaching remains a threat in the country but also has been ruled out as the cause of the deaths.

Botswana has the world’s highest population of elephants with more than 156,000 counted in a 2013 aerial survey in the country’s north.

Former wildlife minister Tshekedi Khama, brother of former president Ian Khama, has blamed poaching in the Okavango Delta on President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to disarm the wildlife department’s anti-poaching unit in 2018.

In a separate statement on Thursday, Botswana’s government also announced “an alarming surge of rhinoceros poaching in the Okavango Delta” in recent days.