WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Early in October, over 100 hippopotamuses have died in Bwabwata National Park, in northeast Namibia.
- Veterinary experts in the southwestern African country are linking the sudden deaths to a suspected anthrax outbreak.
- Humans can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products.
Bwabwata national park released photos of dead hippos scattered on the river, some flat on their backs, others with just their heads visible above water.
“Over 100 hippos died in the past week. The cause of death is unknown but the signs so far show that it could be anthrax,” Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta told AFP News Agency.
Before the mass death, government officials said that Namibia’s hippo population was estimated at around 1,300.
Shifeta said the death toll could get higher as crocodiles may have eaten some of the carcasses.
“Our veterinary services are currently working at the area to determine the cause of death. Once we have the results of the cause of death than we can decide on the way forward,” he added.
The minister said that it would be very alarming if there were any more hippo deaths. The national park is one of Namibia’s foremost tourist attractions.
Apollinaris Kannyinga, deputy director of parks in the country’s northeast region said that they initially discovered around 10 hippos dead, but that number had increased in the next days.
“The other mortalities are dispersed over the river, and the crocodiles and vultures are feeding on them,” Kannyinga said.
The deputy director confirmed that there were 109 recorded hippo deaths, but assured that these outbreaks of the disease are ordinary and the animal population “usually recovers”.
“We will just sensitise the community not to try and get the meat of these dead hippos for consumption,” he said.
“Anthrax is an infection caused by the spores of a bacteria which can lie untouched in the soil for years. It needs rapid antibiotic treatment and can often be fatal for both animals and humans. “
The low waters of the Kavango river caused the latest anthrax outbreak, according to Kannyinga.