Mass elephant deaths in south Africa puzzle researchers

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(CBS Newspath) — Researchers in Botswana are looking into the deaths of hundreds of elephants. They are searching for answers, as the population continues to decline. 

A race is underway to discover what’s killing elephants in southern Africa. So far, more than 350 elephants have died…leaving conservationists worried.

“Whenever they (local residents) would go out they would see more and more elephants dead. It seemed they were even dying very suddenly in some of the cases the carcasses were animals that had fallen down while walking,” Keith Lindsay, conservation biologist, said.

For now, poaching has been ruled out since many dead elephants still have their tusks. Some wildlife officials are reporting the animals running in circles and dragging their hind legs, suggesting potential poisoning.

Botswana has sent samples from the dead elephants to laboratories for tests.

“’There are still of a lot of infectious diseases and potentially other toxins that are still being investigated by the laboratory samples that have been collected,” said Mmadi Reuben, principal veterinarian of the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Botswana is seen as one of the last safe havens for these lumbering giants, which have seen a decline in recent years. Experts warn if action isn’t taken, these elephants could be extinct in parts of Africa, within a decade.

While researchers say while they don’t think the coronavirus is to blame for the recent deaths, they aren’t ruling anything out.

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