Ecology: The mystery of Botswana’s dead elephants
The death of nearly 400 elephants in Botswana is one of 2020’s big mysteries. Mark Read weighs in on the issue
The Botswana elephant debate is raging once more. Virus-like it emerges every few years and is associated with a great deal of huffing and puffing among lovers of the Southern African wilderness. Bellicose statements from one side about the need to let the bullets fly into tens of thousands of elephants are met with howls of outrage that such an action can even be considered. In past years, hostilities calm after a while and retreat, some would say, to lurk among the bottles of Tusker Lager in the bars of Maun and Selinda.
This time things are a bit different (isn’t that the case with most things these days?). The debate has been properly catalysed by the mysterious death of about 365 elephants in the northern part of the Okavango area. Why did they seemingly stop in their tracks and die? Poison, a catastrophic pathogen, starvation or some other unknown element? No doubt in time the truth will emerge. In the meantime, however, passions of Okavango lovers have been aroused once...