A herd of elephants is seen in Maun, northern Botswana, March 2, 2019. (Xinhua)
A total of 275 elephants have died since March in Botswana, said Kenneth Maselesele, acting permanent secretary in Botswana's ministry of environment, natural resources conversation and tourism.
GABORONE, July 2 (Xinhua) -- A total of 275 elephants have died since March in Botswana, said Kenneth Maselesele, acting permanent secretary in Botswana's ministry of environment, natural resources conversation and tourism, in a statement released on Thursday.
Yet Maselesele dismissed reports by some western media suggesting that at least 356 dead elephants were found in its famed Okavango Delta, northwest of the southern African country.
Maselesele said elephants are dying but not at a rate suggested by some western publications.
"Following the mysterious deaths of elephants in the areas of Seronga (in the northwestern part of Botswana) since March 2020 to date, 275 elephant carcasses have been verified against the 356 reported cases," Maselesele said.
Some western media outlets claimed that 350 elephants have died of unknown causes in northwestern Botswana, which is home to a variety of wildlife including elephants, in what is being described as a conservation disaster.
A herd of elephants are seen at the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana, July 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Yang Mengxi)
Maselesele explained that investigations regarding the unexplained deaths of elephants are still ongoing.
According to Maselesele, three laboratories in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada have been identified to process the samples collected from the dead elephants and will be interpreted against field veterinary assessments of clinically ill and dead elephants.
The ongoing investigations into the mysterious deaths of the elephants have revealed no evidence of poaching so far, he said.
The southern African country is home to a third of Africa's elephant population which has grown from at least 80,000 to approximately 130,000 because of well-managed reserves.
It is believed that 10 percent of the estimated 130, 000 elephants in Botswana are in the Okavango Delta, one of Botswana's most popular attractions for tourists.
Eco-tourism, which has been badly affected by the deadly COVID-19, contributes between 10 to 12 percent of Botswana's gross domestic product, second only to diamonds. ■