Mystery of Zimbabwe elephant deaths may be solved, as experts eye bacterial disease

34 elephants have died so far

Officials in Zimbabwe say that the recent spate of elephant deaths in the country is the result of bacterial infection.

Fulton Mangwanya, the director-general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told a parliamentary committee that 34 elephants have died so far and “many” more could still die “in the short term.”

“All results to date point to the cause of these elephant deaths being a disease known as hemorrhagic septicemia,” said Mangwanya, noting that the disease does not appear to have been previously recorded as causing deaths among Africa’s savannah elephants.

MYSTERY OF BOTSWANA'S MASS ELEPHANT DIE-OFF MAY BE SOLVED

“However, it has been reported to kill Asian elephants in India. It has also affected cattle, pigs, and chickens in southern Africa in which it can cause massive mortality. It has also been recognized in buffalo and some other wildlife species in this part of this world,” he said.

Nov. 10, 2019: Elephants make their way through the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, in search of water.

Nov. 10, 2019: Elephants make their way through the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, in search of water. (AP Photo)

Two elephants were found dead in Victoria Falls last week, the Sunday Mail reports, citing the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Samples have been sent to the U.K. for tests, the Authority said.

Other samples will also be sent to the U.S. and neighboring South Africa, according to Mangwanya.

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Additionally, a mass elephant die-off occurred earlier this year in neighboring Botswana. Officials in Botswana recently reported that the deaths of the more than 300 elephants may be the result of toxic algae in the water the animals were drinking.

Eyal Harel, CEO of Israeli firm BlueGreen Water Technologies told Fox News that toxic algal blooms have been growing annually in scale, severity, and frequency all over the world. "Poisoning by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae toxins is something that animals, namely big mammals, cannot evolve to avoid or to be immune from," he explained, via email. "The phenomenon of large mammals falling victim to toxic water sources, what happened in the case of Botswana’s elephants, occurs when toxic algae species inundate already depleted or scarce water resources."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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