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The discovery of the carcasses of about 90 elephants in Botswana within a span of two months is one that calls for concern. This news comes as a shock especially for a country that has been a safe haven for the countless elephants, with elephants playing an important role in their tourism-based economy. The carcasses of the slain elephants were discovered near a protected sanctuary where they were stripped and killed for their tusks.
According to Mike Chase, the Director of Elephants Without Borders, a conservation nonprofit group charged with the responsibility of conducting surveys for elephants every four years in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the scale of the poaching were by far the largest in Africa ever read or recorded till date.
Chase continued by saying that it was clearly an act of poaching because of the concealment of the rotting flesh with drying bushes. All the dead elephants, mostly large old bulls, had their skulls chopped for their tusks to be removed. Conservationists are calling it “one of the biggest slaughters that have been experienced in recent years.”
The Botswana government had instituted a poaching force (the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit) which had the authority to shoot poachers on sight. According to the Southern Times, in the last two decades, over fifty poachers had been killed. However, without any explanation, the new Botswana government which took power in April decided to withdraw military weapons and equipment from the anti-poaching force.
It is no surprise to see the poaching boom increase every day and this spike coincides with the disbarment of the arms used by the anti-poaching units. The Southern Times published that one of the reasons for the withdrawal was to squelch the growing tension between Botswana and its neighbors. Some poachers who were killed by the anti-poaching unit were suspected to be from neighboring countries like Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Botswana government refuses to accept the findings of the aerial surveys, terming the report “false and misleading.” As unfortunate as the incidence is, the government is insisting that their withdrawal of weapons and equipment from the unit has nothing to do with the increasing growth of poaching activities nor does it in any way dampen the effectiveness or operation of the unit. This was communicated through their Facebook page. According to the government, the majority of the dead elephants being reported died from natural causes and some as unlucky bystanders in the conflict between humans and wildlife.
According to the Great Elephant Census conducted by Elephant without Borders and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Botswana has the highest population of elephants in the world, housing a third of all Africa’s elephants. More importantly, they have one of the best wildlife records. This record makes them a high target for poachers. In order to preserve the elephants and save them from extinction, this poaching frenzy needs to be looked into and relevant measures should be put in place.