The first batch of 21 carcases was discovered on August 10, said South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson Fayroush Ludick.
Cause of death? Poisoning.
Samples of the contents of the animal’s stomachs were sent to ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute outside Pretoria, which discovered the presence of methomyl, the active ingredient of commercial fly bait granules.
“We revised the number to 36 on Monday,” said Ludick adding the poison is thought to have been brought into the park because it did not use pesticides. Security has since been tightened at the park entrances.
Ludick would not speculate on a motive for the poisoning and said SANParks was conducting its own internal investigation alongside the police criminal case.
Other casualties of the poison included two crows (Corvus albus) and as well as unconfirmed reports of two bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis.
“The problem is the carcases had already been removed, probably by another scavenger. The toxin takes between 45 and 90 days to break down and as such could still be present in the park.
“We are expecting numbers to rise as more animals feed off the poisoned carcases, however we are hoping for rain to dilute the poison,” Ludick said.
Luddick appealed for information to be relayed to 042-233-8606.