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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year.

The African elephant:

  • The African elephant is the largest animal on Earth.
  • They are vulnerable as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
  • African elephants in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II.


  • Cyanobacteria also called blue-green algae.
  • These are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Not all produce toxins but scientists say toxic ones are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.
  • These single-celled organisms (bacteria) live in fresh, brackish, and marine water.
  • These organisms use sunlight to make their own food.
  • In warm, nutrient-rich (high in phosphorus and nitrogen) environments, cyanobacteria can multiply quickly.

Impact on other animals:

  • Other animals in the Okavango Panhandle region appeared unharmed.
  • Some cyanobacterial blooms can harm people and animals and scientists are concerned about their potential impact as climate change leads to warmer water temperatures, which many cyanobacteria prefer.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average.


  • Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. 
  • Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert.
  • It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast.
  • Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but is, at most, a few hundred meters long.

Source: The Hindu