OCT 05, 2020 4:30 AM PDT

Bacteria Caused the Deaths of Hundreds of Elephants

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

African elephants are a threatened species that are increasing in some areas but at risk in many others. There are probably under half a million left. They can still be found in countries across Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. Botswana, in Southern Africa, is thought to be home to around a third of all African elephants. In May of June of this year, there was a mysterious, rapid mass death of elephants in the Okavango Delta in Botswana; 330 elephants died. Scientists have been searching for the cause.

Researchers now know that these elephants were likely killed because they drank water that was contaminated with a microbe called cyanobacteria. Scientists were not sure that these pathogens were the culprit at first because they tend to grow at the edges of ponds while elephants drink from the middle. Tests, however, have confirmed the cyanobacteria are to blame.

Climate change may make cyanobacteria blooms more likely.

Cyanobacteria are also known as blue-green algae and are one of the biggest groups of bacteria on the planet. They use sunlight to grow and can survive in different kinds of water and in soil. Some strains of cyanobacteria produce toxins, sometimes called cyanotoxins. There is a wide range of cyanotoxins, which produce many different effects in humans and animals, including but not limited to vomiting, gastroenteritis, liver damage, eye irritation, fever, and death.

"Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water," the Department of Wildlife and National Parks' Principal Veterinary Officer Mmadi Reuben said at a press conference.

Image credit: © Carmen Leitch

The elephant deaths "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of [water] pans," reported the AFP.

Bacteria have also been found responsible for the deaths of a group of elephants in Zimbabwe. The animals there are also thought to have died quickly, between August 24 and September 23. Tests have indicated that hemorrhagic septicemia killed the elephants, said Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya.

A series of droughts in Zimbabwe may be making the growth of this bacteria more likely, again suggesting that climate change is already having major implications for many species across the world.

Sources: BBC, Phys.org

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 12, 2022
Health & Medicine
Pet Cannabis Poisoning is on the Rise
MAY 12, 2022
Pet Cannabis Poisoning is on the Rise
An analysis of surveys completed by veterinarians indicated an increasing number of pet cannabis poisonings was recently ...
JUN 03, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Poultry Vaccine Led to Increase in Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella
JUN 03, 2022
Poultry Vaccine Led to Increase in Antibiotic Resistance in Salmonella
The Salmonella bacterium is a common cause of foodborne illness, and it isn't unusual to find strains of the microbe in ...
JUN 08, 2022
Plants & Animals
Coffee Reduces the Risk of Kidney Injury
JUN 08, 2022
Coffee Reduces the Risk of Kidney Injury
If you already start your day with a cup of coffee, then you’ll probably be excited to hear that you should contin ...
JUL 19, 2022
Earth & The Environment
What is the rock cycle and why is it important?
JUL 19, 2022
What is the rock cycle and why is it important?
When we look at a rock, we often just focus on its size and appearance. Is it light or heavy? Dark or shiny? But there i ...
JUL 18, 2022
Plants & Animals
Early Domesticated Dogs Grew in Size to Defend Herds
JUL 18, 2022
Early Domesticated Dogs Grew in Size to Defend Herds
As one of the earliest domesticated animals, dogs evolved from wolves into what we now know as extremely diverse domesti ...
AUG 04, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Massive Gene Transfer From Bacteria to Fly is Discovered
AUG 04, 2022
Massive Gene Transfer From Bacteria to Fly is Discovered
Researchers used new long-read genetic sequencing technology to show that there are bacterial genomes within the genome ...
Loading Comments...