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Botswana elephant deaths toll rises

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The mystery around a mass die-off of elephants in Botswana is strengthening after initial test results ruled out both poisoning and anthrax.

Officials had earlier ruled out poaching as carcasses were intact. But officers have discovered more dead animals as the death toll surpasses 100.

Samples would now be sent to neighboring South Africa for further examinations.

Wildlife officer Dikamatso Ntshebe said more animals could possibly die, as some look sick.

“We are still experiencing elephants dying in the Okavango Panhandle,” Ntshebe said. “We also see elephants that show that they are sick and are on the verge of dying. As of Friday, we had a total count of 110 elephant carcasses.”

Villagers have been stricktly warned against consuming meat from the dead animals.

The Department of Wildlife has begun extracting tusks from the carcasses.

“We have started removing the tusks in the dead elephants, and we have started burning the carcasses.” Ntshebe said. “We have started with those (carcasses), which are close to the villages, and those that are lying in the water. The idea is to burn as many carcasses as possible. However, we have a challenge since some of the carcasses are in areas which are difficult to reach.”

The department is also looking into the cause of the elephant deaths. The investigation is hurdled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which may postpone results from the samples.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population above 130,000.

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