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Anthrax Closes Part of Botswana's Chobe National Park to Tourists

  • Wednesday, September 29, 2004

For the second time, the Chobe Riverfront of Chobe National Park in Northern Botswana has been closed to tourists due to an anthrax outbreak. Since its outbreak on September 8th, more than 265 animals have died, including 248 buffalo and 12 elephants.

Wildlife authorities have been working hard to identify the origin of this outbreak and to contain the disease. One of the greatest concerns has been that predators including lions, vultures, jackals and hyenas may feed off the flesh of the dead animals, spreading the disease to other animal species. Anthrax, an acute bacterial disease, mainly affects wild and domestic animals, but can also pose a risk to humans exposed to an infected animal, tissue or spores. Fortunately, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks reports that the outbreak is subsiding.

The Chobe National Park is the second largest national park in Botswana and covers 10,566 square kilometers. It has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent, including half of Botswana's elephant population, part of what is likely the largest surviving elephant population in the world. The Park's game is a major tourism draw, bringing an estimated $104 million in revenue to Botswana. Thankfully, only a portion (less than 3%) of the park has been closed, and, therefore not affected tourism as negatively as anticipated.

Botswana's Chobe National Park is part of the African Wildlife Foundation's (AWF) Kazungula Heartland, which also includes parts of Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Beyond elephants, the Heartland is filled with lions, hyenas, wildebeests, buffalo, impala, kudu, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, wild dogs, leopard, kingfishers, great herons, bream and tiger fish, as well as many medicinal and endemic species of plants. AWF works with Heartland conversation partners to develop business ventures that benefit local communities while protecting and nurturing the wildlife. In collaboration with Sankuyo Community Trust, AWF has recently helped rebuild Santawani Lodge, an ecotourism lodge in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

At this point, no date has been set for the re-opening of the Chobe Riverfront.

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