Carcasses of more than 350 African elephants have been found in Botswana in recent months, but no cause of death has been determined, BBC News reports.
“It’s appalling — we need to know what the hell is going on,” said Niall McCann, director of conservation at United Kingdom charity National Park Rescue, CNN reported.
McCann said some dead elephants have been found at watering holes, while others appear to have died after “falling flat on their faces,” according to the network.
The head of Botswana’s wildlife agency says poaching has been ruled out because the dead elephants still had their tusks, CBS News reports.
“It is only elephants that are dying and nothing else,” McCann said, according to BBC News. “If it was cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see other deaths.”
Experts also have ruled out anthrax, The Guardian reported.
Botswana officials have sent tissue samples from carcasses to be tested at several labs, CNN reported. McCann speculated parasites or COVID-19 might be to blame.
“Yes, it is a conservation disaster — but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis,” McCann said, according to BBC News.
The conservation group Elephants Without Borders estimates elephants have been dying in unusual numbers in Botswana for about three months, CBS News reported.
A report by the group says elephants of all ages and both sexes have died, while living elephants who are weak and emaciated have been observed, according to the network.
More than 130,000 African elephants live in Botswana, the most of any country on the continent, according to CNN..