- The Uganda Wildlife Authority today announced that the mysterious deaths of around 200 hippos in the Queen Elizabeth National Park s due to anthrax. After weeks of investigations, involving several Ministries, it had been "confirmed that anthrax has been the cause of the deaths," the Authority said.
Because the scourge was in the national park, the Uganda Wildlife Authority had played a key role in these investigations, the agency said in a statement today. The investigations were launched more than two weeks ago, after a large number of hippos suddenly started dying in the popular national park at Uganda's Congolese border.
According to Ugandan authorities, at least 200 hippos had by now died by the bacteria in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The press also reports of anthrax deaths in the nearby Katonga Wildlife Reserve. Here, other victims had included waterbucks and buffaloes
The Uganda Wildlife Authority today announced it had decided to "implement new measures to ensure the safety and comfort of visitors to the national park." These include the suspension of Launch Trips on the Kazinga Channel until further notice. "However, concerted efforts will be made to ensure that this popular tourist activity resumes as soon as possible," the agency said.
Further, game drives would be planned in a manner that "will ensure that tourists are not exposed to the sight of dead animals. We have instructed our ground staff to guide tourists only to those areas considered safe," the Wildlife Authority said. A team would be sent into the area "to start the disposal of carcasses."
The government agency finally was to bring the scourge under control and to "ensure that it does not spread to other areas in the country." To that end, the Wildlife Authority had requested Ugandan government funds to dispose of the carcasses, immunise domestic animals and to undertake a public awareness campaign against spread of the disease.
- Available literature indicates that people cannot catch anthrax unless they get in direct contact with the dead animals, the agency further emphasised. "Therefore, once precautionary measures have been undertaken, humans cannot catch anthrax."
The Uganda Wildlife Authority held it highly probable that the anthrax epidemic among the park's hippos had come from "uncontrolled cattle movements in and out of the national park." The agency therefore strongly cautioned against continued uncontrolled grazing of cattle inside all protected areas.
In another press release, Sam Okware of Uganda's Health Ministry warned the public against eating meat or products from animals suspected to be sick and those that have died of anthrax.
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