Farayi Machamire 13 April 2017
HARARE – The scores of hippos that have died in Binga since last week
succumbed to a vicious strain of anthrax, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife
Authority (ZimParks) said.
Villagers who have been feasting on the mammals’ carcasses could be in
danger of contracting the deadly disease.
The areas at risk are those along the Mlibizi River in Binga.
The hippos died after drinking water from the channel.
The outbreak was first suspected last week, when a dozen hippos died from
a disease with symptoms resembling those of anthrax.
ZimParks acting spokesperson Simukai Nyasha said samples were taken for
testing and lab results confirmed the presence of the disease.
The 12 carcasses were recovered at different points in the Kavira Forest
and along Mlibizi River, near the mighty Zambezi River.
“To date, 12 hippo deaths have been recorded in Mlibizi area of Binga
Rural District since March 27, 2017,” Nyasha said.
“Preliminary findings have shown that there were traces of bacteria that
cause anthrax in the samples that were analysed. Further tests are
currently being done to confirm the initial findings.”
The remote district of Binga in Matabeleland North, where villagers have
been feasting on the carcasses unaware of possible health hazards, is one
of the most arid regions in the country.
ZimParks added that they have put in place appropriate measures to
suppress the spread of the disease.
“These include making sure that the carcasses will not be opened up, they
should be left to rot intact and usually the bacteria causing anthrax dies
after three days, stopping scavengers from accessing the carcass through
covering and monitoring the remains, until the situation normalises,”
“(It also includes) stopping people from consuming the meat. Meanwhile, we
are encouraging the people in the affected area to quickly seek medical
assistance if they suspect any symptoms of anthrax.”
Nyasha said a joint taskforce has been educating the district on the
dangers of consuming animal carcasses.
“A team of officials from National Parks and Wildlife Management
Authority, Forestry, Environment Management Authority, the Health ministry
and veterinary department has already been constituted to educate
communities on the dangers of consuming meat from the dead hippos and also
on general wildlife conservation issues,” Nyasha said.
Officials discourage eating game meat from the affected area, especially
animals found dead, he said. Even if anthrax is not present, the animals
could have been poisoned by poachers.
Livestock in the area are being vaccinated, and health officials in
surrounding districts are on high alert.
In humans, anthrax manifests itself in three forms and can affect the
skin, stomach, intestines and lungs.
With proper medical treatment “deaths from this type of anthrax are rare”.
Anthrax outbreaks can turn deadly as they did back in 2004 in Malilangwe
Wildlife Reserve, killing over 90 percent of some of the wild herbivore
Spores of the anthrax bacterium, bacillus anthracis, can live in soil for
several years and infect grazing livestock, and subsequently people.