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Toxins made by microscopic algae in water caused the previously unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants in Botswana, wildlife officials say.

Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s declining elephant population.

The alarm was raised when elephant carcasses were spotted in the country’s Okavango Delta between May and June.

Officials say a total of 330 elephants are now known to have died from ingesting cyanobacteria. Poaching has been ruled out as a cause of death.

  • Africa Live: Updates on this and other stories

  • Why elephants are seeking refuge in Botswana

The toxic bacteria can occur naturally in standing water and sometimes grow into large blooms known as blue-green algae.

Warning: Some people may find the following images upsetting

The findings follow months of tests in specialist laboratories in South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe and the US.

Many of the dead elephants were found near watering holes, but until now the wildlife authorities had doubted that the bacteria were to blame because the blooms appear on the edges of ponds and elephants tend to drink from the middle.

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“Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water,” the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ Principal Veterinary Officer Mmadi Reuben told a press conference on Monday.

The deaths “stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of [water] pans”, AFP quotes him as saying.

Reports in June noted that tusks had not been removed. Poaching has been ruled out as cause of death, as has anthrax poisoning, according to senior wildlife department official Cyril Taolo.

But questions still remain about the deaths, Mr Reuben told reporters.

“We have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only. We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

image copyrightSupplied

Hundreds of carcasses were spotted with the help of aerial surveys earlier this year.

Dr Niall McCann, of the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, previously told the BBC that local conservationists first alerted the government in early May, after they undertook a flight over the delta.

“They spotted 169 in a three-hour flight,” he said. “To be able to see and count that many in a three-hour flight was extraordinary.

What is cyanobacteria?

image copyrightDe Agostini/Getty Images

  • Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, is found worldwide especially in calm, nutrient-rich waters
  • Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins that affect animals and humans
  • People may be exposed to cyanobacterial toxins by drinking or bathing in contaminated water
  • Symptoms include skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, sore throat, headache
  • Animals, birds, and fish can also be poisoned by high levels of toxin-producing cyanobacteria.

Source: WHO

Related Topics

  • Botswana

  • Wildlife
  • Elephants

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Americans are voting to legalize weed. It’s unlikely the next Congress will do the same.

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Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), for example, remains decidedly anti-weed although his home state made history by legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana on Election Day.

“I have not changed my position on it. I think this is really bad public policy,” Rounds said. He said he does not plan to work on revising federal marijuana laws, even piecemeal legislation like access to banking for cannabis businesses. “I never say I will never do anything, but most certainly I am not going to be a proponent of any type of actions along that line.”

Some 49 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats support full legalization of marijuana, according to Gallup.

“I think it’s seen as a Democratic issue and a libertarian issue,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. “But real voters, Republican real voters, are in favor of it, too.”

Despite Democratic support, their best-case scenario is a 50-50 share of the Senate after Georgia’s runoffs in January, and cobbling together enough votes for a legalization bill would be a challenge.

The Democratic-led House, meanwhile, plans to vote on removing all federal marijuana penalties and erasing marijuana-related criminal records as soon as this week — setting a benchmark on the issue for the next Congress. Even with a Democratic majority, though, a vote on the bill originally set for September was delayed because moderate Democrats worried that voting to legalize cannabis without securing a coronavirus aid package would have hurt them on Election Day.

Lake said their calculus was wrong.

“I think it was founded in reason that is 20 years old,” Lake said. “I think some politicians have no idea how fast the voters have moved on this.”

Democrats will have a slimmer majority in the House come January, but advocates still anticipate that the passage of weed laws in red states — and the addition of members from both parties to the ranks of legal state lawmakers — means the chamber will advance a broad cannabis agenda.

But the Senate is key to any major change to federal cannabis law. Without a Senate open to considering comprehensive legislation, any major bills passed by the House are likely to stall. The best chance for any cannabis legislation in the 117th Congress will be small policy changes.

“[Cannabis legalization] is going to happen, I’m confident,” said Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, whose home state of New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana on Election Day. “But how it happens and when it happens is the question.”

The next Senate will include 30 members who represent states where marijuana for adult use is legal — eight more than are in the chamber now — including six Republicans. Piecemeal legislation that boosts medical marijuana research or improves access to banking for the cannabis industry is gaining support from both parties, and those bills are the most likely to move in the next Congress.

The SAFE Banking Act passed the House last year with strong bipartisan support and was discussed by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Next year, the bill may get an extra lift thanks to the shuffling of committee chairmanships.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who will chair the Senate Banking Committee next year if the GOP retains the Senate, said he’s willing to consider the bill. Toomey’s home state of Pennsylvania allows medical marijuana use, so he has more incentive to act than current Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — who hails from one of only two states that do not allow any form of marijuana, even for certain medical conditions.

“I am sympathetic to the idea that people who are involved in [the] cannabis industry — in an entirely legal fashion, in the state in which they operate — ought to be able to have ordinary banking services,” Toomey said.

The passage of marijuana laws in red states also will affect moderate Democrats and legal state Republicans in the House, lawmakers and lobbyists say, potentially encouraging some from both parties to shift to a more pro-marijuana stance.

“I think most Republicans will believe it to be a states’ rights issue in the states that have voted [to legalize],” said Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “And now it’s a matter of federal policy getting in line with the states and not punishing them for making the decision that they’ve made.”

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus in the House has been around since 2017, and it always has had two Democratic and two Republican co-chairs. The Democrats are Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, who represent the traditionally blue, “left coast” states of Oregon and California. The Republicans are Rep. Don Young — whose home state of Alaska has a strong libertarian ideology and legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 — and Joyce, whose home state of Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016.

But evolution on weed doesn’t occur immediately for all lawmakers after their states legalize. Oregon’s lone Republican lawmaker, Rep. Greg Walden, said he did not vote in favor of the initiative that legalized marijuana in Oregon in 2014, but now wants to “treat it like alcohol.”

“I moved a long way from where I certainly started, to respect the will of the voters,” said Walden. “I think over time, you’re gonna see this move forward.”

On election night, 70 percent of South Dakotans and 69 percent of Mississippians voted to legalize medical marijuana. In Montana, the same percentage of voters — 56.9 percent — chose Trump and chose legal recreational marijuana.

Maneuvering to capitalize on those votes has already begun. Joyce said he and Blumenauer are working to bring together a cannabis coalition in the coming weeks that includes members from newly legal states.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in September pushed for the MORE Act vote to happen before the election so Democratic lawmakers could campaign on it, predicted that holding back on marijuana reform in the next Congress could actually hurt the Democratic party in the long run.

“We’re now in a race. That’s a warning sign, that Republican states are now starting to legalize,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If Republicans beat Democrats on marijuana legalization … who are moderates gonna blame after that?”

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The Culture Secretary Has Told Netflix To Put A Warning Into “The Crown” Telling Viewers The Drama Is Fictionalised

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Oliver Dowden is expected to write to Netflix calling for a warning message to be placed on episodes of The Crown (PA)


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The culture secretary Oliver Dowden wants Netflix to place a warning at the start of episodes of “The Crown” telling viewers the drama is fictionalised.

He said people could be in danger of thinking the events depicted in it are a wholly accurate version of what happened after a number of complaints about the new series of the hit show.

The minister is expected to write to the streaming service requesting a message is placed on screen, echoing a similar suggestion from Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday Mr Dowden said the series, which stars Olivia Colman as the Queen, was a “beautifully produced work of fiction”.

But he raised concerns younger viewers who do not have prior knowledge of some aspects might mistake the fictional representations for an accurate version of what happened.

There has been criticism of how various members of the Royal Family have been depicted, including Prince Charles after the latest episodes show the tensions in his marriage to Princess Diana.

And the widow of an army officer killed in an avalanche at a Swiss ski resort said she was “very upset” to learn the disaster features in the new series.

Sarah Horsley, whose husband Major Hugh Lindsay, a friend of the Prince of Wales and a former Queen’s equerry who died in 1988, asked The Crown’s producers not to include it, and was “horrified” when she was told the episode was going ahead.

Mr Dowden told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that.

“Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

Last week Earl Spencer told ITV’s Lorraine: “I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’.”

He added: “I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair.”

But actress Emma Corrin, who plays Princess Diana, has defended the show, saying: “I think for everyone in the The Crown, we always try and remind everyone that the series we are in is fictionalised, to a great extent.

“Obviously it has its roots in reality and in some fact, but Peter Morgan’s scripts are works of fiction.”

She added: “At the same time, I understand why people would be upset, because this is history… and even with Diana, you know, it’s still very much fresh, I suppose, everything that happened. So I do really understand if people would be upset.

“But obviously, for all of the cast, we just want to constantly remind people that we approach these people that we play as characters, which is why it’s such a joyous job, because Peter [Morgan, the show’s creator] writes such rich and complex characters, and as an actor it’s such a joy to be able to really bring a lot to them.”

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Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr share an engaging draw in ‘exhibition’ bout

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Tyson and Jones were said to have drawn after eight, two-minute rounds

Mike Tyson said he will “continue to go further and do more” in the boxing ring after his return to the sport ended in an engaging draw with Roy Jones Jr.

The 54-year-old former world heavyweight champion ended 15 years of inactivity to take on 51-year-old Jones in a high-profile pay-per-view ‘exhibition’ – but fears the pair would serve up a some form of money-making farce were not realised as they did enough to provide entertainment.

While rap artist Snoop Dogg said it was like watching “two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue” during his stint as a ringside commentator at the spectator-less Staples Center in Los Angeles, former world champions including David Haye, Lennox Lewis and George Foreman expressed satisfaction.

Tyson last fought in 2005 and looked focused as he walked to the ring for his highly-anticipated return
Tyson last fought in 2005 and looked focused as he walked to the ring for his highly-anticipated return

There were glimpses of the past as Tyson swayed from the hips, ploughed forward and tried to unload shots, while Jones sought to move fluidly, though he was visibly drained by the halfway stage.

Tyson landed a couple of eye-catching left hooks, some solid body shots and unquestionably forced the pace. Many on social media felt he had won well but the judges – not employed by the sanctioning body but by the WBC to offer added entertainment – thought otherwise.

Tyson said he was happy with the draw and made clear his future pursuits would not be in a professional capacity: “This is bigger than championships, we are humanitarians, we are helping people. I’m happy I got this under the belt and I’ll continue to go further and do more.”

Jones, a former four-weight world champion, said he would talk to his family before considering fighting again, and added: “I don’t do draws but the dude is so strong, man. When he hits you, his head, his punches, his body shots, everything hurts. I’m cool with the draw.”

So did it work?

Tyson punches Jones
Tyson landed some solid work on Jones, who looked to hit, move and tie his opponent up

Former heavyweight champion Foreman tweeted it was the “best exhibition I have ever seen”, Haye said the event was “competitive” and former world super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall said the pair “didn’t disgrace themselves in any shape or form”.

What an ‘exhibition’ would look like was up for debate. The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the fight, had required two-minute rounds instead of the usual three minutes, larger than normal 12-ounce gloves and had said neither fighter could seek a knockout. In a bid to make make the bout safer for the 50-something fighters, the commission even stated a winner would not be named.

Ultimately when the bell sounded Tyson tried to fight aggressively, Jones looked to survive and tie his rival up a bit and any fears they would walk around and do little were quickly overcome.

Music artists including Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg performed in a bid to add to the pay-per-view offer, and moments before his ring walk Jones questioned the small ring in use, stating: “It’s like they are feeding me to the bear.”

Moments before he walked to the ring in his glory years Tyson was known to punch holes in changing room walls. Here, he admitted to fears moments before his ring walk as he stated: “I’m just pushing myself. Whatever I’m afraid to do, I do.”

Tyson got himself in shape for his return and looked less fatigued than Jones as the fight progressed
Tyson got himself in shape for his return and looked less fatigued than Jones as the fight progressed

Jones’ energy tank looked close to empty by halfway but Tyson – who will give some of the reported $10m (£7.5m) he earned to charity – appeared well conditioned over the eight rounds.

UFC president Dana White watched and said: “Time is undefeated and takes us all down. Fighting is a young man’s game. Mike looked awesome tonight. I was blown away. It exceeded my expectations.”

Since his first heavyweight world-title win aged 20 – a record that still stands – Tyson has been in prison for rape, battled drug and alcohol abuse, been bankrupt, acted in films and fronted his own one-man show.

Despite scandal and chaos he has stayed relevant and fans posted images of the hell-raising figure they hoped they may see moments before a ring return that had been anticipated by some and ridiculed by others.

While it was acceptable and entertaining, it is hard to see how repeat editions can prove as enticing. This was largely all about seeing if a 54-year-old former champion had anything left.

Tyson showed he did. He was in shape, he punched with menace and it can be argued some high-profile professional fights have offered less in terms of entertainment.

Whether there was enough quality, risk and drama on offer to keep people paying to watch more is another matter.

‘Snoop Dogg wins’ – reaction

Robin Lundberg tweets
Like many, broadcaster Robin Lundberg enjoyed the contributions of rapper Snoop Dogg
Tweet: Former British champion Ashley Theophane was satisfied with what the boxing legends served up
Former British champion Ashley Theophane was satisfied with what the boxing legends served up
Tweet: Former world heavyweight champion George Foreman was glowing in his praise
Former world heavyweight champion George Foreman was glowing in his praise
Like many others, Amir Khan expressed his relief neither Tyson or Jones were hurt
Like many others, Amir Khan expressed his relief neither Tyson or Jones were hurt
Tweet: Meanwhile former wrestler the Iron Sheikh feels WWE legends could profit by getting back in action
Meanwhile former wrestler The Iron Sheikh feels WWE legends could profit by getting back in action

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