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Tue Mar 03 09:24:01 SAST 2015

Anthrax kills 83 hippos in Uganda game park

Sapa-AFP | 16 August, 2010 10:46

Anthrax has killed at least 83 hippopotamuses in a popular Ugandan game park that saw a similar outbreak six years ago, says an official.

"The number of dead is now 83," Tom Okello, area conservation manager at Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwest Uganda, told AFP.

The park, one of Uganda's most popular safari destinations, was hit by anthrax poisoning in 2004, when more than 300 hippos died from exposure to the lethal spore-forming bacteria.

Okello was alerted to the current outbreak in June, when 10 of the hulking semi-aquatic animals were found dead over one half-day period.

While the death-toll continues to rise, Okello said his staff have learnt from the 2004 experience and are close to containing the problem.

"We really have improved," he said. "The situation is under control."

The anthrax poison emanates from bacteria that live in soil that surrounds a small lake in the Queen Elizabeth park.

It can be contracted by wildlife through open wounds, and flesh-eating vultures and big cats in the park can also spread the illness.

Okello said the poison has stayed well clear of areas visited by tourists.

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