CHOBE NATIONAL PARK: Botswana has rejected claims of a surge of elephant poaching made by a leading conservation charity and put on display carcasses of animals allegedly slaughtered for ivory—some with tusks still intact, reports AFP.
Elephants Without Borders (EWB) claimed two weeks ago that it had discovered at least 87 elephant carcasses during a routine aerial survey of conservation areas, suggesting a sudden spike in killings in recent months.The claims led to global media attention and questions were raised about Botswana’s anti-poaching efforts.
But officials demanded to see EWB’s proof and subsequent visits to the Chobe National Park located just 19 corpses—only six of which were found to be poaching victims.
“Last year, the whole year, we lost about 81 elephants. So I can say it’s just normal, like any other year, we haven’t recorded any mass killing,” said Churchill Collyer, the deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Officials added that since the start of the year, a total of 63 elephants had died across the country and that there had been no noticeable increase in elephant poaching.
Around 40,000 African elephants are killed every year for their tusks, according to conservation groups.
The elephants are illegally traded as part of a multi-billion dollar industry that extends from Africa to Asia and beyond.Botswana, which has Africa’s largest elephant population, is on the frontline of the battle against the illicit ivory trade.
This week, the country’s authorities took journalists to the vast Chobe National Park in the northeast which has more than 100,000 elephants—the country’s largest concentration of the animals.
Several hours spent flying over the reserve which borders Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, showed six elephant carcasses, four of which appeared to have been poached.
“This is almost more than six months since it was killed,” said Collyer of one animal with dried, perforated skin and missing tusks.
Around 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, another decomposed carcass was found but when EWB led rangers to it, the tusks were still intact, suggesting it was not killed for ivory.
“The cause of the natural death could either be from old age, from diseases, from starvation during the drought season,” said anti-poaching deputy brigade commander George Bogatsu, a six-year veteran of the fight against poaching.