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For months, conservationists and scientists have been baffled by the death of hundreds of elephants in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

More than 350 individuals of all ages and both sexes were affected, with many walking in circles before dying suddenly, collapsing on their faces, reports The Guardian. The mass die-off in May and June was described as a conservation disaster.

For months scientists weren't able to get to the elephant carcasses in time. This led to a delay in finding out what caused the deaths of so many elephants because carcasses were beginning to rot already. When elephants started dying in the same manner in neighbouring Zimbabwe, it was easier to get to the carcasses on time and withdraw specimens.

While poachers were suspected, tests eventually revealed that it was bacteria in the water that killed more than 350 elephants.

During a press conference on Monday, Botswana's Deputy Director of Wildlife and National Park, Cyril Taolo, said that the government had all but ruled out human involvement in the deaths.

"I don't think anybody can every say never, but in this instance, the available evidence is showing that this was a natural occurrence. We have ruled out poaching."

CNN reports that some conservationists aren't happy with the reason given by the Botswana government that hundreds of elephants were killed by toxin-producing cyanobacteria in waterholes.

Conservationists are questioning why was it only elephants that were affected if the specific bacteria was in waterholes. All the other animals in the area who drank from the same waterholes should then have been affected as well.

Botswana has the world's largest elephant population, estimated at 130,000. In 2019, the southern African country lifted its ban on the hunting of elephants. Since the lifting of the ban, licences have been granted to hunters allowing them to hunt only a limited number of elephants in controlled areas.

Watch the France24 video below for visuals on the elephants dying in Botswana.

Image credits: Evening Standard and The Guardian

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