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Botswana blames bacteria in water holes, not poaching, for mass elephant die-off

Botswana blames bacteria in water holes, not poaching, for mass elephant die-off
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Botswana officials on Monday said bacteria in water holes, not poaching, has killed hundreds of elephants this year.

Cyril Taolo, deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, said during a press conference that a toxin caused by cyanobacteria has killed more than 300 elephants this year, according to Reuters

“What we just know at this point is that it’s a toxin caused by cyanobacteria,” Taolo said, adding that the specific type of neurotoxin had yet to be established, according to the newswire. 

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Officials said a total of 330 elephants have died from ingesting cyanobacteria and that poaching has been ruled out as a cause of death after reports in June noted tusks had not been removed, the BBC reported

The findings followed months of tests in laboratories in South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe and the U.S, according to the BBC. 

Authorities will monitor the situation during the next rainy season, and Taolo said there was no evidence to suggest Botswana’s wildlife was still under threat for now, as officials were no longer seeing deaths, according to Reuters. 

Mmadi Reuben, the department's principal veterinary officer, said questions remain as to why only elephants had been affected, according to the newswire. 

Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Scientists say toxic cyanobacteria are occurring more frequently as climate change increases global temperatures, Reuters noted.