February 28, 2001
ARUSHA, Tanzania - U.S. and African wildlife experts are investigating
the mysterious death of seven of the 17 rare black rhinoceros living
in a Tanzanian wildlife sanctuary, an official said Wednesday.
The rhinos died in the 3,320-square mile Ngorongoro Conservation
Area in northern Tanzania, five of them in May and two others in
January, said Emmanuel Chausi, conservator for the area.
The conservation area, site of the Ngorongoro crater--the collapsed
floor of an extinct volcano that is the rhino's habitat--has also
seen several hundred other animals die during a prolonged drought.
Chausi said the 11-member team from the United States, Tanzania,
Kenya and South Africa arrived last week to investigate the cause
of death of the rhinos.
''We don't know source of the deaths, but early samples indicate
that it is Babesiosis,'' he said.
The tick-borne disease is caused by the Babesia parasite that attacks
red blood cells that supply oxygen to animals. Babesiosis is common
in animals but rare in humans.
Lack of water from the drought is believed to have killed the other
animals, including 323 Cape buffalo, 193 wildebeest, 69 zebra, three
antelope and three hippopotamus. The remains of the animals were
found near water sources.
The total number of black rhinos across southern and eastern Africa
was about 65,000 in 1970 but hunting left only some 2,300 alive
in the early 1990s. Since then conservation efforts have brought
their numbers to around 2,700.