More than 50 elephants have been screened for tuberculosis (TB) with the human strain at the Kruger National Park since last year after the disease was detected in an elephant which was found dead in 2017.
Michelle Miller from National Research Foundation said the elephants were already facing threats of being poached and they had to make sure that TB was not another threat to the animals.
Since the survey began, the disease has not been detected in the elephants that have been tested.
Miller explained that it would be a challenge to feasibly test all the elephants at the KNP but they will focus more on the southern part of the park where the dead elephant was found.
It has not yet clear how the elephant contracted the disease from a human being. However, Miller said they speculate that the elephant came in contact with contaminated material.
“We don’t think an elephant will be in close enough contact with a human being to inhale the bacteria…but elephants explore the environment with their trunks and they can inhale the bacteria from contaminated material rather than direct contact.”
Apart from the threat of TB, poaching on elephants had been on the rise since 2017. In 2016, 46 elephants were killed and 67 were killed in 2017.
Much of the elephant poaching is concentrated in the north of the park. There are more than 15 000 elephants in the KNP.
In a bid to protect the species, rangers in the Kruger fight rhino poachers in the southern portion of the park as well as elephant poachers in the north on the border with Mozambique. This means splitting precious resources.
They are working with the Mozambique government, and have also been using helicopters, technology, the police and the army in their battle with elephant poachers.