Investigations on the mysterious deaths of elephants that were reported in the Okavango eastern panhandle in 2019 and 2020 are still on-going to analyse the evidence of the second scientific survey.
This was said by Environment minister Phildah Kereng when answering a question during a Ntlo ya Dikgosi session this week. She indicated that the samples were last taken in August 2022 as part of the surveillance process in order to analyse whether the ‘cyanobacteria’ has been existing in the Okavango Eastern panhandle.
More than 380 elephant deaths were reported in the area and the department of veterinary services and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks working together with other different stakeholders collected samples for analysis.
The scientific report had indicated that the deaths were a result of ‘cyanobacteria’ a bacteria triggered by climate change. It was reported that the bacteria which is ‘toxic’ had contaminated the water pools from were elephants drank water and spread rapidly. This after samples were collected from 50 ponds within the area.
In 2020, experts that conducted analyses revealed that tests for various possible causes of deaths including cyanobacteria were inconclusive. They revealed that the evidence was degraded and mishandled thus raising concerns that whatever killed the elephants could emerge as a threat again.
Okavango region chief representative at Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, Kgosi Disho Ndhowe had wanted to know what caused the high elephant mortality rate in the Okavango region in 2019-2020, and also wanted to know the mitigation strategy put in place to address the cause.
The mysterious deaths continue to worry scientists as they searching for a definitive answer, leaving some concerned including the local authorities that there could be a repeat of what happened in 2020.
On a supplementary question to the minister’s answer, Ndhowe asked the minister to clarify on some allegations that the elephants were poisoned by poachers. He further asked the minister to consider making some consultations with the community and update them about the on-going surveillance process.
In response, Kereng explained that the University of Botswana with other international stakeholders are always on the ground to monitor the situation in order to come up with some alternatives to prevent its existence. She assured that the consultations will be made with members of the affected communities in order to explain about the surveillance process and what it entails.