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End to Mysterious Elephant Deaths in Botswana


At the end of June, the Botswana Department of National Parks confirmed that, since March, a total of 281 elephants had died of unknown causes near the village of Seronga in northern Botswana. With northern Botswana's population of well over 100,000 elephants (and growing), it was not so much the numbers that alarmed conservationists, but the mysterious circumstances surrounding the sudden and very localized deaths.


 All carcasses still had their tusks intact, ruling out poaching, and no other animals were dying, which virtually eliminates poisoning – vultures are particularly susceptible to poisons in carcasses, and there would likely have been a significant increase in vulture mortality if poisoning was the cause. Was this some new and mysterious illness?!

 The Botswana government is awaiting pathology reports from labs in Botswana, South Africa, and the United States before releasing any findings. In the meantime, a snippet of good news is that there have been no new deaths recorded since early July, and there is some optimism that the cause of the deaths might have spontaneously disappeared.    

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