It was a shocking event several years ago. 350 elephants in Africa died suddenly and mysteriously. More mass deaths followed until 400 elephants died. The elephants literally dropped dead.
The mystery impelled researchers to find out what killed the animals and what the ramifications are. According to the Guardian the cause may finally be clear.
Some things were ruled out quickly. The ivory was not missing so it was not a case of mass poaching. Intentional poisoning was also ruled out. The other causes took more time to investigate:
According to the Guardian:
“In 2020, 350 elephants mysteriously died in Botswana, with a further 35 dying in similar circumstances in Zimbabwe. Now scientists think they may have found the reason the elephants died.
In May and June 2020, the death of 350 elephants in Botswana’s Okavango delta baffled conservationists and sparked global speculation about what had caused it. Elephants of all ages and both sexes were affected, with many walking in circles before dying suddenly, collapsing on their faces. Two months later, 35 more elephants died in north-western Zimbabwe.
At the time, the deaths in Botswana were attributed to an unspecified cyanobacterial toxin, government officials said, and no further details were published.”
“But tests on the elephants that died in Zimbabwe have finally come back and shown the cause was a little-known bacterium called Pasteurella Bisgaard taxon 45, which resulted in septicemia, or blood poisoning.” (Links in original.”
Pasturella is a family of bacteria widespread among animals. Members of the family pose various levels of threat to animals and humans. The bacteria here is as yet unnamed but is a close relative of P. multocida. That bacterium can cause hemorrhagic septicemia in other animals. Septicemia is a reaction to the invasion of the body by bacteria. This form of bacteria cause hemorrhage as well.
The outbreak has caused elephant guardians to add infectious disease to the list of threats to the species. The fact that 400 elephants died almost at once shocked animal experts. Efforts to better understand and deal with disease threats are now under consideration.
In better news two Asian elephants were recently recruited to help protect cheetahs in India’s ambitious reintroduction plan.