STS Investigate the Death of an Elephant

Saving the Survivors received a call to investigate the cause of death of an adult elephant cow in Mozambique.

The carcass had no evident signs of prolonged health problems or injuries. However, on close inspection, we could note small amounts of bloody fluid coming out of the trunk. The vet unit collected multiple blood smears (blood from trunk and ear veins), tissue samples (ear), whole blood and blood in FTA cards. All material will be sent to the Mozambique Veterinary authorities.

Two diseases that might be the cause of death

1 – Anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, is a peracute, acute or subacute. It is a  highly contagious disease of domestic and wild animals, and humans. In most animal species, it is characterised terminally by the development of a fatal septicaemia. The result of this is sudden death. Producing widespread oedema, haemorrhage and necrosis. Anthrax is an endemic disease to southern Africa. Therefore, it should be considered as an integral part of the ecosystem. Thus intervention actions should only be instituted under special circumstances

2 – EMC (Encephalomyocarditis Virus). A virus that is transmitted by rodents to other wild animals. It can cause sudden death in elephants associated with Myocarditis (acute inflammation of the heart muscle).


Wildlife diseases are, in most cases, a natural component of the ecosystems. They act as population regulators, by putting pressure on large animal populations. Thus, contributing to the process of natural selection. Due to many factors like human encroachment, pollution, habitat loss etc. wildlife diseases can sometimes pose a serious threat to endangered wild animals.

STS vet unit in Mozambique is working in partnership with ANAC and the veterinary authorities. The reason for that is to investigate cases of wildlife disease and react through veterinary interventions and prevention programs if justified.

Finally, a special thanks to ANAC, GLC and Mozparks Foundation. This kind of work, although heartbreaking is vital for the future of our wildlife. Please continue to support the work we do, simply by visiting our website and donating now.