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Anthrax outbreak claims lives of more than 165 wild animals in Zimbabwe

Anthrax outbreak claims lives of more than 165 wild animals in Zimbabwe

88 hippos, 45 buffaloes, 30 elephants and two kudos found dead in Mana 
Pools national park
Tests confirm hippos were killed by anthrax

By Stewart Maclean

Last updated at 11:48 AM on 10th January 2012

More than 165 wild animals including 88 hippopotamuses have died amid an 
outbreak of anthrax in Zimbabwe.

The hippos were found dead alongside 45 buffaloes, 30 elephants and two 
kudos in the country’s northern Mana Pools national park.

Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokeswoman Caroline 
Washaya-Moyo told the state-owned Herald newspaper that tests had proved the 
hippos were killed by anthrax.

She added that the cause of death for the other animals had not yet been 
confirmed but said early signs suggested they had also fallen victim to the 
infectious disease.

Ms Washaya-Moyo said she feared the outbreak could spread to other wildlife 
in the protected reserve, which lies around the lower Zambezi River.

She said: ‘Our office has confirmed the anthrax outbreak following the death 
of the animals in Mana Pools.

‘The Authority engaged the vet offices who later collected samples from 
hippos for lab testing.

‘The lab test confirmed that 88 hippopotamus died of anthrax.’

Officials are today conducting further tests on the affected animals, which 
are all believed to have died in the last few weeks.

Government veterinary officer Chris Foggin said a team of specialists had 
visited the area and were burning the carcasses of the dead animals in an 
attempt to prevent the infection from spreading.

He told the Herald: ‘A number of animals have died, but we have visited the 
area and we sealed it off and we are burning the carcasses to prevent any 
further spread, an action well considered now that the lab reports confirmed 
anthrax as the culprit.’

Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most famous national parks.

The World Heritage site is a wetlands conservation area formed around four 
natural lake pools along the Zambezi.

It is home to the country’s largest concentration of hippos as well as other 
wildlife including lions, buffalo and leopards.

Visitors to the area can stay in unfenced luxury accommodation or campsites, 
allowing them the opportunity to spot game from close up.

Anthrax is a highly infectious disease that affects mainly hoofed animals 
and cattle.

It is picked up by mammals which come into contact with bacteria formed into 
spores, which sometimes lay dormant for decades before becoming active.

Although the disease is not generally passed directly from one animal to 
another, a creature can pick up the spores if it comes into contact with the 
corpse of another which has been killed by the infection.

The condition’s highly infectious state has resulted in anthrax being used 
as a biological weapon against humans, who are also vulnerable to illness or 
death if infected.

The crisis in Zimbabwe is the second reported anthrax outbreak among African 
game animals in recent years.

In July 2010, the government of Uganda confirmed 82 hippos were among at 
least 90 animals which had been killed by the disease.

Officials there said the affected creatures came into contact with anthrax 
spores after drinking water from an infected river in the country’s Queen 
Elizabeth National Park.


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