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Elephant Deaths Puzzle Southwest Kenya Investigators


FILE - An elephant crosses the Mara River in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, July 6, 2015. Six elephants were found dead in three wildlife refuges in Narok County, southwest Kenya.

FILE - An elephant crosses the Mara River in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, July 6, 2015. Six elephants were found dead in three wildlife refuges in Narok County, southwest Kenya.

In Kenya, six elephants have died in one week under unclear circumstances. Some conservationists suspect the animals were poisoned.

The six elephants were found dead in three wildlife refuges in Narok County, southwest Kenya. The animals all died between February 1 and 6.

Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Gitau told VOA that investigators were trying to establish the cause of the deaths.

“Samples have been taken of all the six of them, because another male was also found in the February 5th in Mara north conservancy. Samples have been taken to Nakuru for analysis, they are analyzing. They don’t seem to suspect anything particular cause of it so we are waiting for them to give us conclusion,” he said.

According to Gitau, the animals did not have any physical injuries.

Some conservationists suspect the elephants might have been poisoned, and government officials have called on investigators to look into that possibility.

Residents of Mara, a game reserve area that borders Tanzania, have complained in the past of wild animals destroying their crops and killing domestic animals.

In December last year, three lions died of poisoning in the same area. Two people were arrested in connection with that incident.

Gitau noted that at this time of the year, there was usually less conflict between the locals and animals.

“The human and wildlife conflict there in that particular area for this period wasn’t reported to be acute, so we don’t think there will be that kind of reaction [poisoning the animals]. But we are not quick to jump to any conclusion at the moment until we get those results,” he said.

Investigators are also looking at the local environment, to see if the grass, crops and water the animals consume might have been toxic.

The elephants also face threats from poachers who kill the animals for their ivory -- but in these cases, the elephants' tusks were intact. For the moment, the deaths remain a mystery.

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