350 Botswana Elephants Dead: Suspect Cyanobacteria

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by Linda Kaidan

350 Dead Elephants - Cyanobacteria?
Will automated Cyanobacteria Assessment prevent animal deaths in future?

Aerial photographs show groups of dead elephants near ponds. The 350 Botswana Elephants dead appear to have suddenly succumbed after showing signs of neurological impairment. One elephant walked in circles before falling dead on the ground.

While no tissues have been examined to determine cause of death, it is clear that foul play is unlikely. Poachers are not among the suspects as no one removed the elephant tusks. Poison is also not indicated, because predators did not become ill after feeding on the dead elephants.

Cyanobacteria are commonly occurring fresh and salt-water bacteria which can produce cyanotoxins and cause sudden death by asphyxiation. Under all too common conditions ponds and water supplies can become dangerously contaminated.

US multi agency project currently working on remote detection of toxic blooms

US Environmental Protection Agency’s Cyan Project uses satellite based remote sensing to identify toxic algae blooms from space.  The EPA has joined forces with NASA, NOAA and USGS to tackle this widespread water quality problem with a comprehensive automated solution. This project has been ongoing in the US since 2015.

Remote images capture water color which can be used to identify phytoplankton blooms and the presence of cyanobacteria. The Cyan Project is currently validating data collected via remote sensing and analysis against field collected data to determine the accuracy of the remote sensing acquisition process. US federal and state participants including government, educational institutions and private research groups together with published peer reviewed papers will provide a basis of comparison. Required data includes cyanobacteria counts, location and date.

If water quality analysis can be automated around the globe, IOT devices at ponds and lakes can generate audible water quality warnings immediately to deter humans and wildlife from drinking contaminated water. In the meantime, we must do our best to monitor water sources to protect all animals across the globe.

View  available data with android app CyAN

You can view currently available toxic bloom data in US water bodies on your android device . Just download CyAN from GooglePlay and try it:)