Since the discovery of 11 carcases last month, 25 more elephants have mysteriously perished in Hwange, prompting veterinary doctors from the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT) to collaborate with the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) in investigating the cause of the mass deaths of the jumbo.
Although the actual cause of the elephant deaths is yet to be ascertained, veterinary experts suspect that a bacterium known as pasteurella multocida could have been the cause of the fatalities.
While briefing Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu on the latest pertaining to laboratory tests seeking to explore the actual cause of the deaths in Victoria Falls on Friday, VFWT’s Dr Chris Foggin ruled out possibilities of poisoning.
Dr Foggin said it is suspected that the bacterial infection which could have caused the mass elephant deaths could have contributed to the agonising decrease in elephant population recorded.
The infection, Dr Foggin said, is triggered by stress conditions related to overpopulation and drought.
Apart from elephants, the bacteria also affects cattle and chickens and a couple of years ago, 200 000 antelopes in Kazakhstan succumbed to the bacteria.
Meanwhile the results of the specimen taken for lab tests to ascertain the cause of the massive deaths are expected in a fortnight’s time.
According to the VFWT, the laboratory in Victoria Falls has no capacity to dig deeper into the bacterium infection and added that they have identified some laboratories in South Africa, United Kingdom and United States for further research.
Addressing the media, Minister Ndlovu said they can only suspect for now that there is a bacteria species that could be contributing to that but they are looking deeper into it.
“There are a number of issues that they are highlighting and flagging among them being the fact that because of the growing populations and the coming in of the dry season, animals have to walk long distances to look for water and they believe that this bacteria probably gets activated because of high stress levels,” he said.
“They have indicated that they do not have lab capacity to confirm this so they will be sending samples to a number of laboratories in South Africa, UK and the US and we hope within two weeks we will be getting the results. We expect to be sending these samples either tomorrow (last Saturday) or day after (yesterday). We are just finalising the papers with Zimparks”.
Due to the effects of drought, Zimbabwe lost about 200 elephants in the year 2019.