Mystery of Endangered Elephant Deaths Solved: Scientists Identify Deadly Bacterium Causing Fatal Septicemia

Hwange, Zimbabwe – Scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the investigation into the mysterious deaths of hundreds of endangered African elephants. The deaths of thirty-four elephants in northwestern Zimbabwe in 2020, along with an additional death in November of that year, prompted concerns about the cause. A research published in the journal Nature Communications revealed that six of the elephants died from septicemia caused by Bisgaard taxon 45, a bacteria previously unknown to cause fatalities in elephants.

The postmortem examinations of the elephants were particularly challenging, as they had to be carried out within hours of death due to the intense heat causing the breakdown of the animals’ tissues. However, the discovery of the bacterium shed light on the cause of the deaths. With the elephants’ habitat experiencing drought conditions, the limited food and water resources likely contributed to the spread of the bacterial infection.

Although the exact mode of transmission of the bacteria among the elephants remains unclear, the researchers suspect that the intense heat may have played a role. It is noteworthy that this strain of bacteria has not been previously reported in elephants, and further research is being conducted to understand its prevalence in the region.

While the discoveries in Zimbabwe have provided crucial insights into the mysterious deaths of elephants, the exact cause of the deaths of 350 elephants in Botswana remains uncertain. Nonetheless, the findings highlight the potential threat posed by bacterial infections to the remaining elephant population, which has already been declining due to factors such as poaching.

African elephants are listed as endangered, with their population declining at a rapid rate. The impact of bacterial infections, including Bisgaard taxon 45, on their conservation adds to the list of challenges facing these majestic animals. The need for further research and conservation efforts is imperative to safeguard the future of the remaining elephant population.