UPDATE JULY 28, 2020: Testing has been completed in Botswana and Zimbabwe and continues in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Investigations also include an aerial survey. Officials have still not been able to confirm a cause of death.
African Wildlife Foundation has received with concern the news of mass deaths of elephants in Seronga, Botswana. In a news release to media houses dated July 2, 2020, the Botswana government through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism have verified 275 elephant carcasses against the 356 reported cases.
So far, the cause of the deaths has not been confirmed. In the release, the ministry has confirmed that three laboratories in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Canada have been identified to process the samples taken from the dead elephants which will be interpreted against field veterinary assessments of clinically ill or dead elephants.
AWF is in touch with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and is closely monitoring the situation. We have also reached out to conservation partners in Botswana and the region to offer our support in addressing this issue.
The good news is that the tusks of the fallen elephant have not been removed and the carcasses of the elephants that are in close proximity to human settlements continue to be destroyed to prevent any potential transfer of pathogens as a precautionary measure.
Botswana has the highest elephant population on the continent (130,000), a testament to the country’s highly successful conservation interventions even in the face of modern challenges including loss of wildlife habitats and a fast-growing human population. We have full confidence that the government will move with speed and efficiency to isolate the cause of these deaths and find a solution before it kills more elephants or possibly spreads to other species.
AWF has closely worked with African governments to conserve wildlife and wildlands across the continent for the last 60 years and we take this opportunity to reiterate our support and commitment to African-led and African-owned conservation interventions.