Windhoek-Following weeks of public outcry over the discovery of a male lion carcass in the Ugab River, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has revealed that samples taken to determine the exact cause of death of the lion concluded the beast had succumbed to anthrax.
Environment and tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda on Wednesday said that soil samples were collected from around the carcass for evaluation of diseases, and tests were conducted at the Central Veterinary Laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
According to him, the samples tested positive for anthrax (Bacillus anthracis). The blood and tissue samples collected from the lion carcass were also submitted to the laboratory for further analysis and also tested positive for anthrax.
“The conclusion of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism therefore is that the death of Ugab lion XPL-98 was caused by anthrax.”
The autopsy was prompted by a massive public outcry and criticism and assumptions on various platforms including social media such as Facebook.
Most of the comments and reactions questioned the commitment of the environment ministry and those involved with the research and monitoring of desert-adapted lions in the Kunene and Erongo regions.
Many condemned the ministry for the death of the lion while calling for the release of the autopsy and post-mortem results carried out on the carcass.
The carcass was burned and buried as per the advice of the veterinarian immediately after samples were collected.
Muyunda said the results of the autopsy carried out by Dr Philip Stander found what appeared to have been extensive bleeding inside the chest cavity.
Muyunda said the lion’s lungs and heart were too decomposed at the time the autopsy was conducted to confirm the cause of the bleeding.
He added that the injury could have been caused by a sharp object penetrating the chest between the lion’s ribs, or possibly by a small calibre rifle.
As a result, he says, the cause of death of the lion due to human-lion conflict was also suspected.
The ministry assured the public that measures were taken to ensure no further spread of anthrax from the carcass to other areas or other animals.
The ministry also appealed to the public, particularly those referring to themselves as environmental activists, to refrain from interfering with the processes and activities of the ministry.
“As a competent authority, the ministry is aware of its public duties of informing the nation and the public at large of any developments during the execution of our mandate only when due processes have been followed to verify information released to the public.”
“We advise and encourage Namibians who genuinely care about wildlife conservation to communicate directly with us using appropriate channels, instead of sensationalizing issues such as the death of the Ugab male lion … on social media,” the ministry said.