Showing 1 to 2 of 2 blog articles.
The Unsolved Mystery of Elephants Death in Botswana

The death of hundreds of

elephants in Botswana has been an unsolved mystery for a long time during this

pandemic in Botswana. Most of these have shown the symptoms of dizziness and

walking in circles before dropping dead face-first. Government officials quote

that 281 elephants have been verified to be dead with this bizarre behavior,

but the conservationists and the NGOs claim that the death toll is much higher.

Initially, wild life experts have omitted the possibility of tuberculosis and

believe that the cause is beyond the known diseases. Though the death number

does not sound serious in population perspective, it is absolutely critical to

complete the diagnosis and have accurate results in order to avoid any foul

play or before elephants succumb to more of such mysterious deaths.

Botswana has an estimated

130,000 Savanna elephants and is considered to be one of the last strongholds

of species in Africa. The earlier estimations were to be around 350,000 and

ivory poaching in 20th century has reduced the species to one third

of them today. The thousand-square-mile to the northeast of Okavango Delta,

which has witnessed the deaths of elephants has around 18,000 elephants

roughly. The wildlife experts and veterans believe that the possible causes

could be the ingestion of toxic bacteria into the water, viral infection from

rodents in the area or a pathogen infection. Conservationists are also

considering the possibility of poisoning by humans.

The investigating

officials of the Botswana government had sent for the testing to the

laboratories in Zimbabwe, South Africa, US and Canada as well. The wild life

department made a press release that the deaths are probably due to natural

toxins. However, the officials have confirmed that the conclusion could not be

made about the cause yet. Authorities

have so far ruled out anthrax, as well as poaching, as the tusks were found

intact. They believe that some bacteria can naturally produce poison,

particularly in stagnant water.

Elephants Without Borders

(EWB) is a wildlife conservation charity that first flagged about these

mysterious deaths. Their confidential report with references to 356 dead

elephants was leaked to the public media in early July. The charity suspected

that the deaths were not restricted to any specific age group or gender and has

also highlighted that many live elephants have shown signs of weakness,

lethargy and even disorientation.

Presence of green lush

vegetation and the fact that waterholes in the vicinity are still full of

rainwater eliminates the possibility of deaths due to dehydration or

starvation. Though the blue green algae can be deadly when consumed along with

water, elephants generally drink water from the middle of the water bodies, but

not edges. But there has been a pre-historic mass elephant deaths due to

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and this cause could only be substantiated

with the laboratory results, which is still underway. The neurological symptoms

like walking in circles suggests that anthrax poisoning is also a possibility.

The Anthrax bacteria occurs naturally in soil and elephants become infected if

they have ingested contaminated soil or breathed in. Anthrax is known to be

affecting wild life and domestic animals around the world.

Experts opinionated that

it requires a detailed sampling of carcasses, soil and water in the delta area

for an accurate explanation. But the challenge is the remoteness and the hot

weather in the area which could have degraded the body, erasing important

evidences, and scavenging animals which may eat organs making it extremely

challenging for the examination. Despite the wildlife conservationists’ huge

cry worldwide, there is still no confirmation on the absolute cause for the

hundreds of elephant deaths.


816   10 months ago
Pangolins rushing towards extinction

The primary threat to most pangolin species is illegal

hunting and poaching for local use and illicit international trade. Recent

estimates based on seizure data suggest that more than 895,000 pangolins were

trafficked globally between 2000 and 2019. This trade mainly involves pangolin

scales and meat, which are primarily trafficked to East and Southeast Asia, and

to a lesser extent other body parts.

Scales for Traditional Medicines

Pangolin scales are used as an ingredient in Traditional

Asian Medicine, particularly in China and Vietnam. They are believed to be a

cure for ailments ranging from heart disease to cancer, and to help lactating

women produce milk. Like rhino horn and human fingernails, pangolin scales are

made of keratin and there is no scientific evidence that they are efficacious

in medicine. Similarly, pangolin scales are used to treat myriad medical

conditions in Traditional African Medicine, especially in West and Central


Meat consumed locally or as a

luxury product

Pangolins have been consumed as a source of protein in

virtually every range country throughout human history. In Asia, this

continues, but in many places local consumption has been foregone in favor of

selling the animals into illicit, international trade because of the high

prices pangolins can fetch. The majority of this trade is destined to China and

Vietnam, as well as other countries in Southeast Asia, where pangolins are

consumed as a delicacy. The high price and perceived rarity means consumers eat

pangolins as a luxury product to demonstrate their wealth and reinforce social

status. In Africa, pangolins are eaten as wild meat, especially in West and

Central Africa, where local rather than international trade is predominant.

Estimates suggest that at least 400,000 pangolins are hunted and consumed

locally in Central Africa each year.

Ongoing illegal trade despite

international protection

Illicit international trade in pangolins and their parts

takes place despite international protection afforded to the species. Pangolins

have a long history in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in

Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Each pangolin species was included

in CITES Appendix II in 1995, meaning trade should be closely regulated, and in

the year 2000, zero export quotas for wild-caught specimens traded for

primarily commercial purposes were established for the Asian pangolins, in effect,

a proxy trade ban. Due to ongoing concerns about the overexploitation of

pangolin populations, each species was included in CITES Appendix I at CoP17 in

2016, establishing an international trade ban on commercial trade in

wild-caught pangolins and their derivatives. Pangolins are also protected

species in most of their range countries under national legislation, but

illegal harvest and trade continues unabated.

The impact of overexploitation on

pangolin populations

High levels of off take have resulted in steep declines

in pangolin populations, especially the Chinese, Sunda and Philippine pangolins

in China and Southeast Asia in recent decades. In some places this has resulted

in the commercial extinction of the species, or the loss from some sites


Since 2008, there has been an apparent increase in the

trafficking of African pangolin scales, mainly from West and Central Africa to

Asian markets, which appears to be placing greater exploitative pressure on

tropical African pangolin populations. Quantifying the impact of illicit,

international trade and disentangling it from local use is challenging, as in

Asia, in part because there is a lack of standardized population monitoring

methods for pangolins.

Based on the best available evidence, the IUCN Red List

assessments for pangolins were updated in December 2019, resulting in the

species being categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable,

based on past, ongoing and future population declines attributed to actual or

potential levels if exploitation.

100   1 year ago