GABORONE – More than 400 buffaloes believed to have been chased by lions drowned in a river in northern Botswana this week, the government said.

The mass drowning occurred in Chobe River near the border with Namibia.

Early investigations by authorities in both countries “suggest that an exceptionally large buffalo herd was grazing in Namibia when they stampeded into the Chobe River,” Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism said in a statement late Wednesday.

Easy meat … Villagers scrambled to grab buffalo meat after drowning tragedy

“Initial indications are that they were being chased by a pride of lions,” the ministry said. “It is estimated that more than 400 animals drowned due to the massive movement of buffalo trampling, and falling from steep river banks.”

Mass drownings are not uncommon, the ministry added.

Namibian media reported that the incident occurred on Tuesday night.

The environment ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, said their working theory was that the buffaloes were startled by lions.

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“Unfortunately, during their attempt to escape and when they reached the Namibian side, the bank of the river was steep, so they could not climb out and ended up drowning. This is a regrettable incident as we lost so many wildlife – which is our heritage – at once,” he noted.

Wasteland … Authorities in Botswana and Namibia say over 400 buffaloes died after being herded into water by lions

Muyunda said they had alerted the Botswana wildlife authorities about the incident.

“After inspections, carcasses that are fit for human consumption will be given to the communities in the surrounding areas,” he added.