Jumbo deaths: Zimparks rules out elephant poisoning

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) says its investigations into the mysterious deaths of elephant heads in game parks has ruled out any deliberate poisoning by malicious individuals adding the giant animals could be succumbing to an infectious diseases.

This comes at a time the number of elephants which have died mysteriously since August this year has risen to 34.

Presenting oral evidence on the much publicised death of elephants before parliament’s Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality committee, parks director general Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya said a total of 34 elephant carcases have been discovered in parks including Woodlands Resettlement Area, Magetsi, Pandamasue State Forest and Zambezi National Park.

The latest death was recorded on September 11.

Zimparks says most worrisome was that no sick elephant has ever been identified since the outbreak in August.

“The dead elephants were found lying on belly which shows that the result is of extremely sudden death like when you shoot an animal in the brain,” said Mangwanya.

“No ill elephants have been located. They are simply found dead. This shows that the duration of the disease is very short,” he added.

“Testing of cyanide in stomach contents was negative,” he told the committee.

Mangwanya said all the dead elephants were found with their ivory still intact, ruling out any foul play.

According to Mangwanya some, post-mortem carried out on the dead elephants showed that the animals had enlarged inflamed liver, lung, mind and plean confirming acute infections rather than poisoning.

He said during this hot season elephants and wild animals are more susceptible to diseases because they will be usually crowded while looking for food and water sources.

He said the problem could persist through the dry season.

“All results to date point to a disease called haemoragic sepsemia caused by bacteria infections,” he said.

Meanwhile, some samples have been taken to UK and USA for analysis with plans to get some specimens to South Africa also in place.

All this is being done in an effort to establish the real cause of deaths.

Zimbabwe has a total of 84 000 elephants in its four ranges.

Mangwanya said the mortality so far was not worrisome considering that Zimbabwe has an overpopulation of elephants.