Between May and June, hundreds of elephant carcasses turned up in the Okavango Delta, and until now, the cause has remained a mystery. Scientists have now learned that toxins made by microscopic algae in the water, called cyanobacteria, have been responsible for the deaths. To date, 330 elephants have been killed by ingesting cyanobacteria, which is a naturally occurring bacteria in standing water and in blooms of blue-green algae.

According to scientists, climate change may be exacerbating these incidents and causing a phenomenon known as “toxic bloom” as the algae develops in warm water.

According to Mmad Reuben, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Principal Veterinary Officer, “Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water … We have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only. We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

A total of 330 elephants died between May and June 2020 in the country.