Zimbabwe: Elephants die from 'bacterial disease'

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Photo: Wilderness Safaris

Wildlife officials in Zimbabwe say they suspect a bacterial disease called hemorrhagic septicemia, is responsible for the deaths of more than 30 elephants since late August.

The recent incident follows the deaths of hundreds of elephants in neighbouring Botswana, under mysterious circumstances, and likely caused by toxins made by microscopic algae in water, it has been reported.

The elephants were found lying on their stomachs, which experts say suggests they died suddenly.

Park officials do not believe they were the victims of poaching as their tusks had not been removed.

Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to roughly half of the continent's 400,000 elephants and often targeted by poachers.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Director-General Fulton Mangwanya told a parliamentary committee on Monday that so far 34 dead elephants had been counted.

"It is unlikely that this disease alone will have any serious overall impact on the survival of the elephant population," he said. "

The northwest regions of Zimbabwe have an over-abundance of elephants and this outbreak is probably a manifestation of that, particularly in the hot, dry season elephants are stressed by competition for water and food resources."

Postmortems on some of the dead elephants showed inflamed livers and other organs, Mangwanya said.

Scientists warn that climate change may be making these incidents - known as toxic blooms - more likely, because they favour warm water.