Botswana has received test results from samples sent to Zimbabwe to determine the cause of death of hundreds of elephants. However, the country awaits more results from South Africa before sharing findings with the public. Two months after the first carcasses were discovered, wildlife officials are trying to determine what is killing the elephants. They have ruled out poaching and anthrax among possible causes.

Test results not confirmed

Officials told reporters near the Okavango Delta that they had now verified 281 elephant carcasses and that the deaths were concentrated in an area of 8 000km2 that is home to about 18 000 elephants.

“We have to wait for another set of results and reconcile the two to see if they are saying the same thing before we come to a definitive conclusion,” Oduetse Kaboto, a senior official at the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism.

Although the number of deaths so far represents a fraction of the estimated 130 000 elephants in Botswana, there are fears that more could die if authorities cannot establish the cause soon.

No similar deaths in Africa

Chris Foggin, from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, which conducted the tests on elephant samples from Botswana, said only that country’s government could share the findings.

The Botswana wildlife department has said the government contacted neighbours Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia, but they had not noted similar elephant deaths.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow from 80 000 in the late 1990s. – Reuters