What's killing Botswana's elephants?

Dead elephant

The image above is of an elephant that died of natural causes which is a coomon occurance considering the numbers of elephant.

What's killing Botswana's elephants

The truth is no-one is sure at this stage but click bait type journalism is fueling speculation and many have been unjustly accused of some from of complicity.


When the headlines on news sites shout out that hundreds of elephants are mysteriously dying we are inexplicably drawn to read it. Goal achieved. Just what the news outlets want. The latest flood of articles is a case in point. The earliest reports flashed that hundreds of elephant carcasses had been found, the probable result of poaching. The initial investigation showed that this was an unlikely accusation as none  of the carcasses showed evidence of bullet holes and the ivory was intact. Without any hesitation, or correction to the initial articles, the accusations were simply revised. Now, hundreds of elephants were dying because they were likely poisoned by local communities, The justification for this is  the ongoing wildlife conflict issues that people in the are are having to deal with. Again, apply simple logic here, just a little more reading and just the hint of some investigation by the investigative journalists would reveal that this is also an unlikely scenario as there was no evidence of secondary poisoning- no vultures, no hyenas or any other species that may have consumed any toxins. And, lab results have ruled out most of the commonly used poisons.


The accusations go on and on- starvation and dehydration, anthrax, cyanide, toxic bacteria, pathogenic microbes, viral infections and the latest conspiracy theory, that there is some kind of black ops type of culling program going on. Again let’s apply a little logic here to some of these charges.


Starvation and dehydration- This story gained momentum in the middle of Botswana’s rainy season. So, not only rain falling from the sky to fill the pans but the crystal clear waters of the Okavango are nearby. Another piece of “evidence” would be the fact that this all happened in a relatively localized area. If the drought was so severe why would elephants in a limited area be dying- this may be an important clue, don’t you think?


Social media is the go to spot for conspiracy theorists and the theory that there is some agency involved with a surreptitious culling program also needs to be put to the test. The logic we have to apply here reverts back to the initial charges, no evidence of bullet wounds, so how does one cull elephants efficiently and, another important clue here, is that although all the elephant carcasses were found in a localized area it wasn’t that limited- a cull usually would entail the matriarch being dispatched  first and as the rest of the herd mingles around they would be culled within a very close proximity to the lead female- the mysterious death carcasses cover a much wider area than this would suggest.

The Botswana government responded to the initial reports of large scale poaching and when the investigation revealed that it was unlikely that poaching was the cause another technical team would have to be dispatched to collect samples. These samples were shipped to various institutions for analysis and isolating the toxin does take time. The point of all this is not the fact that elephants are mysteriously dying but the fact that too many news outlets under the guise of  investigative journalism throw out these accusations. Simply asking a number of well qualified people what they “think” what may have caused this is not the same as an investigation. Making unjust accusations that local communities  may have poisoned elephants is a very serious charge with no evidence and I personally would prefer that as in any situation where a supposed crime may have been committed that firstly it needs to be determined if a crime had actually been committed and secondly if anyone is to be held accountable then facts be put forth and not suppositions.

Latest update: A little patience and some understanding of the way things work in Botswana and all has been revealed. There is no sinister plot to hide and cover up the facts. Naturally occuring cynobacterial neurotoxins from an  algal bloom in a water hole is the culprit. 

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