Scientists Unravel Mystery Of Why Dozens Of Elephants Suddenly Died In Africa

Between August and September 2020, 35 elephants died in a 25-by-16-mile radius (Pic credit: Unsplash)

Scientists took three years to figure out what caused a mass die-off of elephants in Zimbabwe. In 2020, African savanna elephants suddenly started dying, leading to international concern and wide speculation about the cause. Scientists have now shared their worrying findings of what exactly killed these giant creatures. 

Scientists said that the elephants were victims of obscure bacteria combined with extreme heat. The researchers are worried that more elephants and other species could suffer the same fate, The Guardian reported. 

Dr Chris Foggin, a veterinarian at Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust in Zimbabwe, who is a co-author of the study said, “They died over a very narrow window. That’s one of the most enigmatic parts of the whole puzzle. That many animals dying quite close together but not right next to each other over such a narrow space of time. It’s really to my mind, rather unique, certainly in this part of the world.”

The study which appeared on Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications explains what killed the elephants in Africa and trying to secure the future of the vulnerable species. 

Between August and September 2020, 35 elephants died in a 25-by-16-mile radius. Earlier that year, in May and June, 350 African savanna elephants died, Forbes reported. Scientists called the mass deaths a “conservation disaster.”

For the study, the scientists examined 15 elephant carcasses. The scientists ruled out poaching and did not find any evidence of cyanide or other poison.

The team of scientists found septicaemia or blood poisoning. In six elephants, they found Bisgaard taxon 45, a bacterial isolation and genetic analysis confirmed the bacteria’s presence. 

“Transmission of the bacteria is possible, especially given the highly sociable nature of elephants and the link between this infection and the stress associated with extreme weather events such as drought, which may make outbreaks more likely,” Falko Steinbach, head of virology at the U.K.’s Animal and Plant Health Agency and a professor of veterinary immunology at the University of Surrey, said in a statement.

Scientists from the APHA and Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and labs in South Africa researched the study. 



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