From National Geographic
By: Maïmouna Kanté
According to National Geographic, the past few weeks in Namibia have been marked by the death of more than 100 hippos in the Bwabwata National Park located in the north-east between Angola and Botswana. Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Johnson Ndokosho explained that their death could be attributed to anthrax. There is a possibility that the death toll could be higher because the crocodiles may have disposed of the carcasses.
Anthrax disease is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis that is most commonly found in the African savannah. The bacteria is naturally found in soil, and wildlife comes in contact with it onces the water has receded. It can exist in the soil and in the body for decades before it is activated. According to the Center for Disease Control, the bacteria has the ability to produce spores that activate once they enter a living organism. Left untreated, it leads to death.
Hippos are considered to be a vulnerable species. In 2004, more than 200 hippos in Uganda died as well, another mass death attributed to anthrax. Estimates of up to 10 people died because they were consuming contaminated hippo meat. Only after their deaths were researchers able to confirm their diagnosis. Before the incident in Namibia, southwest Africa had a total of 3,300 hippos.
Even though there have been a couple water buffaloes that have died due to anthrax, the Namibian authorities have explained that the hippos are isolated from the rest of the park. Therefore they are not worried about contamination. Nevertheless, there is a risk that the human population interacting with the hippos could get infected with anthrax. The Namibian government has put in place burning sites to burn the carcasses of the hippos.