THE ROTTING carcasses of more than 100 hippos floating in the murky waters of a remote African national park have sparked an anthrax alert.
Gruesome images of dozens of the decaying creatures floating on their backs with legs sticking in the air have led to the authorities in Namibia fearing that one of the planet’s most dreaded diseases is to blame.
One of last times such a huge die-off of hippos was witnessed in Africa it led to theories that the 3,000lb plant-eaters had spread the disease by scavenging on the infected flesh of their dead counterparts.
Namibia’s environment minister Pohamba Shifeta spoke of his fears of an anthrax outbreak in the country’s Bwabwata national park as the death toll of hippos over the past week went into triple figures.
He told the media: “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.
“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.”
Such a large death toll from anthrax – a bacterial disease rife among herbivores – is believed to be unprecedented in Namibia.
Another Namibian official, Colgar Sikopo, director of parks and wildlife management at the country’s ministry for the environment and tourism, told the New Era newspaper previous outbreaks in the country had only killed a couple of hippos and elephants when water levels were low.