Date: Thu 27 Dec 2018
Source: Malawi234.com [edited]
The Department of Parks and Wildlife in Malawi says 45 hippopotamuses have died at Liwonde National Park since October . The hippos are dying due to an outbreak of anthrax at the national park, which is home to about 1900 hippos.
According to director of parks and wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, 12 hippos have died since [5 Dec 2018]. However, Kumchedwa noted that the number of recorded deaths per day is now decreasing. "In the past, we could register 5 deaths daily, but now the last recorded was on [24 Dec 2018], and the previous one was on [19 Dec 2018]," he said. He added that the tourism at the park is still thriving despite the deaths, which are happening only along the Shire River banks of the park.
According to Kumchedwa, to avoid further spread of the disease, the department covers carcasses with lime and buries them. "We were advised that burning the carcasses actually increases the spread of the [infection]," he said. [Not true. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife 1st noticed carcasses of hippos floating on Shire River in Liwonde on [10 Oct 2018]. In November , the death toll was at 22. Kumchedwa said it is the 1st time in Malawi for a lot of hippos to die in a short period of time.
Earlier this month [December 2018], the government warned Malawians about the disease and urged people to refrain from grazing domestic animals in infected areas; avoid touching, opening, or eating dead wild animals; and avoid slaughtering sick animals for consumption. [Byline: Russell Kondowe]
[Burning carcasses is, in fact, the preferred and internationally recommended way of safely dealing with anthrax carcasses. But with large carcasses, burning presents a problem, whether assembling sufficient wood and fuel or using napalm or flamethrowers. Lime will aid decomposition, and burying the carcasses, whether by covering it with soil or putting it in a suitably deep pit and covering it with soil, is a good 2nd best. Just make sure that as much of the contaminated soil about the carcass is buried with it, preferably after spraying the soil with disinfectant (e.g., formaldehyde). Parks and Wildlife is faced with a formidable problem disposing of this many carcasses, even if this "lime and burial" method refers only to the latter dozen carcasses.
We are hoping it will be possible for the Malawian authorities to work out where and what the source of this hippo epidemic was and how it all came about. From the hippo-anthrax experiences in Zambia and Uganda, we know that, once initiated, they have the unfortunate habit of being repetitive. And even if one wanted to, dart-vaccinating 1900 hippopotami is not on the books. But by now, the surviving members of the affected mobs will have been exposed to sub-lethal doses of spores, and many will have developed antibodies. This should buy some time. Help has been offered to identify the strain involved.
For the OIE map for the location of this epidemic, see 30 Nov 2018 Anthrax - Malawi: (MA) hippopotamus, OIE
Machinga District, Southern Region, Malawi:
For a description of the Liwonde National Park, see