What are Cyanobacteria that caused the Death to 330 Botswana Elephants?

Cyanobacteria (cyanobacterial neurotoxins) produces toxins in water. The toxins killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana in the year 2020.

Key Points

  • Authorities have said that cyanobacteria caused the deaths of 330 elephants in Botswana.
  • Earlier In July, authorities reported that 281 elephants died mysteriously.
  • The first mass death was reported in May 2020, when a group of 169 elephants were found dead.
  • Botswana is home to roughly one third of Africa’s elephants population with about 130,000.


  • Some cyanobacterial blooms can harm people and animals though not all of them are harmful.
  • Toxic cyanobacteria are occurring more frequently because of climate change and increasing global temperatures.
  • Scientists are concerned because of climate change leading to warm temperatures which cyanobacteria loves.
  • As per the report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average in the southern part.

What are cyanobacteria?

These are a group of photosynthetic bacteria though some of them are nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Cyanobacteria got their name from blue pigment called phycocyanin, which they use to capture light for photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that are common found in water and can be found in soil sometimes. They live in a moist soils and water freely or they are found in a symbiotic relationship with plants or lichen-forming fungi. They contain chlorophyll a- the photosynthetic pigment used by the plants.


It a landlocked country in Southern Africa with its capital Gaborone. Its landscape is defined by Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta. The area  becomes a lush animal habitat at the time of seasonal floods. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is home to animals including giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs.