Harare - A number of buffalo recently found dead on an island in the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe died of a tick-borne disease and not cyanide poisoning, a conservation group announced on Wednesday.
Up to 18 buffalo were reported to have died on Kanyemba Island last month. There were widespread fears they had been poisoned by drinking cyanide-laced water, following a spate of poisonings in and around Hwange National Park and Kariba that has killed at least 60 elephants.
But, according to the Zambezi Society, tests had proved otherwise.
"The tests revealed that the animals were not poisoned, but died of heartwater - a tick-borne disease," the society said in its latest newsletter.
Heartwater can affect cattle, sheep, goats and antelope and buffalo. It is common in sub-Saharan Africa.
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The news will be encouraging for conservationists already worried about the increasing use of cyanide in Zimbabwe by ivory poachers. Other animals have died after drinking poisoned water or licking cyanide-laced salt-licks.
Two weeks ago, the Painted Dog Conservation group reported that a pack of nine wild dogs had been found dead of suspected cyanide poisoning near a waterhole in Mana Pools, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Zambezi Society said there had been one arrest in the wake of the discovery of those poisonings.
The state-run Chronicle newspaper reported this week that 29 rangers and officials from the state wildlife authority had been redeployed from Hwange National Park following a probe into the poisonings.