Botswana’s wildlife department is probing the unexplained death of 11 elephants in the Moremi Game Reserve, raising concern that a neurotoxin in waterholes that killed at least 330 of the animals in 2020 may have returned.

“There is no evidence of illegal activity thus far as elephant tusks were found intact,” the environment ministry said on Facebook. When elephants are poached, their tusks are removed and the ivory sold illegally.

The Moremi reserve is  about 100km east of Seronga, where last year's deaths were reported.

In 2020, scientist found that toxins produced by a cyanobacteria resided in the silt below the surface of waterholes used by elephants. A severe drought was believed to have led to the emergence of the neurotoxin. The investigation put an end to months of speculation about the cause of the animals’ death.

Botswana’s 135,000 elephants, the most in any nation, have become a political issue because of hunting rights and farmers say they destroy their crops and occasionally trample people. Yet the animals are key to the country’s tourism industry, which was worth about $2bn a year before the coronavirus pandemic.



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