Zimbabwe investigates deaths of 12 elephants, rules out poaching

A dead elephant in Botswana, photo: Reuters
A dead elephant in Botswana, photo: Reuters

Wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe are investigating the deaths of twelve elephants last week in a forest north of Hwange National Park, an official said Sunday. Eleven carcasses were discovered on Friday and another on Saturday.

The dead animals are young adults aged between five and six years and juveniles around 18 months old.

“We have ruled out things like poaching because the tusks are intact. We have also ruled out cyanide poisoning because no other animal has been affected including vultures which are feeding on them,” parks and wildlife spokesman Tinashe Farawo told AFP.

Eating poisonous plants
Farawo said initial indications are there might be a bacteria around because the “animals are overpopulated to an extent that their preferred vegetation is no longer there, so they end up eating anything including some poisonous plants”.

Farawo said Hwange, a park with an area of 14,600 square kilometers, has a normal maximum capacity of 15,000 elephants, but it currently holds between 45,000 and 53,000.

Neighboring Botswana lost around 300 elephants early this year. They are thought to have succumbed to natural toxins.

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