Elephant death mystery solved, but no nearer to a solution

In Zimbabwe, elephants started dropping dead, no-one knew why. This has now been solved, but were not any nearer to ending the problem, and now its spreading.

It is unfortunately a fact, that in the majority of instances, sudden deaths from an unknown illness are impossible to prevent until we know more.

In total, 300 died in Botswana with another 35 dying in Zimbabwe just 2 months later. 50 more elephants have died since in Botswana.

It turns out that these animals have fallen as a result of an obscure bacteria, and scientists are concerned that it could spread to other species.

Should something similar happen amongst, say the lions of an area, we could quickly see all the lions die.

It took 3 years but a wildlife veterinarian at the Victoria Falls wildlife trust has worked out what happened. Although initially thinking it was anthrax, it was spreading in a strange way, and killing to many animals.

It turns out that a bacteria called Pasteurella Bisgaard taxon 45 was responsible. It is relatively rare, and had not been known to kill elephants. Unfortunately, in previous heatwaves, similar issues have been known to jump the species barrier and kill large numbers of antelope – particular during a heat wave. This bacteria caused blood poisoning, and mostly killed recently weaned young, which are generally weaker anyway.

It is unfortunate that outbreaks like this are so easily linked to high temperatures, as our behaviour means that these high temperatures occur more often – so deaths like this may become a way of life. Given the slow rate of reproduction in elephants, this could threaten populations if not dealt with rapidly.

The same bacteria is thought to have been responsible for 200,000 saiga antelope dying on the steppe of Kazakhstan in 2015.

Oddly, this bacteria is thought to live happily in the mouths of a variety of animals from elephants and antelope, to lions tigers and even chipmunks. If all it takes for this bacteria to become deadly is an increase in temperature, we have a hard task ahead of us.

Currently, there are 350,000 savannah elephants in Africa, but this number is already declining by around 8% a year (around 26,000 animals each year, or the equivalent of twice the total elephant population of the Kruger national park – one of the largest in the world. While it is possible to turn this around it is not easy.

Oil fields of Botswana and Namibia threaten 130,000 elephants

While currently only exploratory, oil projects in the ecosystems of Namibia and Botswana potentially threaten the survival of 130,000 elephants – one of Africa’s last great wildernesses.

The Okavango delta from space. This exploration could destroy one of Africa’s last great wildernesses

The company ReconAfrica is going ahead with its search despite the threats. At the current time, there are roughly 450,000 elephants in Africa, but that is down from millions just a few short decades ago.

Continue reading “Oil fields of Botswana and Namibia threaten 130,000 elephants”

Botswana has recently sold the right to hunt 60 elephants. Should the rest of us mind?

There has been uproar around the world at the decision of the Botswana government to sell the rights to hunt 60 of their elephants.

Conservationists have the cried this as a threat to the elephant population. The cost of hunting each one will be over £30,000 which means that the total money earned from this will almost come to 2 million.

Now let’s put this Hunt in perspective. Botswana hosts 30% of Africa’s remaining elephants. The current elephant population of Africa standards around 415000, And while this is down from 1.3 million in 1979, It is very expensive to conserve the remaining elephants, And therefore necessary that the country to host them find ways to raise the money.

When are too many elephants in an area Generally the biodiversity drops as they knocked the majority of the trees down and therefore, reduce the amount of habitat that is not suitable to them.

Those against elephant hunting do have some scientific arguments on their side. One of the most obvious is the fact that because Hunters like to have elephants with large tusks, this is not an advantage. In areas where hunting occurs we are changing the genetic population, because while in the past having large tusks meant you would have more babies and live longer it now means you are hunted earlier and therefore you don’t survive to have young of your own. 

However, While I would never go hunting elephants myself, and do not feel that I am impressed by people who do hunt elephants, there are areas of the world where hunting could be argued is a necessary evil. This is for various reasons, from not enough people wanting to see the wildlife, to their being too many elephants for the area to support (this causes high mortality in young and a change in the vegetation which in turn can impact other species}

Botswana lifted its ban on hunting elephants last month – this argument is more contentious even amongst conservationists than you would think

Botswana house around 135,000 of the 350,000 remaining elephants in Africa. In the past they have made a small but significant amount of money from these elephants by hunting, but a few years ago the president of Botswana stated that if they stopped hunting elephants and concentrated on photographic safaris they could make more money from their wildlife.

Continue reading “Botswana lifted its ban on hunting elephants last month – this argument is more contentious even amongst conservationists than you would think”
See Animals Wild