AN outbreak of anthrax has killed at least 42 hippos in south-central Ruaha National Park, authorities have said. The Ruaha Chief Park Warden, Christopher Timbuka, said earlier investigation show the wild animals were killed by anthrax, an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthraces.
According to the official, a survey carried between August and early September shows that death cases were found in three key areas, which are popular for hosting hippos in the sanctuary.
“This is the largest number of hippos to have been killed in the park by the disease,” Timbuka said, adding: “We’ve already sent samples of the dead hippos to the Chief Government Chemist Laboratory Agency for more investigation.”
He cited an acute water shortage in Great Ruaha River as one of the factors for an outbreak of the disease in the sanctuary. “We’re perplexed with the limited water in the river, particularly during this dry season,” said Timbuka, adding that hippos in the park move upstream over long distances as the river dries up in the dry season.
“This forces them to congregate in large numbers in the few remaining areas along the river containing water of suitable volume and depth. And an outbreak of the infectious disease poses a deadly challenge to conservation,” the official said, noting that hippos are supposed to remain submerged in water during the day to prevent overheating and severe sunburn.
He, however, said measures have been taken to control the spread of the deadly disease in the park of about 20,226 square kilometres, the similar size with New Jersey, a state in the north-eastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.
“Bacteria Bacillus anthrax is caused by a number of factors including the use of dirty water, in which for this case used by hippos in Ruaha River,” he said. The park warden said last year five hippos and three giraffes died in the park, though it wasn’t clear on the cause of the deaths.
So far, the Tanzanian government has established a special task force aimed at finding a lasting solution to the ecology of Great Ruaha River, which is currently overwhelmed with anthropogenic factors, according to chief park warden.
“The task force is mandated to ensure that water flows in the river throughout the year,” the official said.