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 bizarrebehavior,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.