Botswana government denies poaching spree took place

Elephants feeding in Chobe National park, The largest national park in Botswana .The Botswana government has denied claims that more than 90 elephants have been killed by poachers PHOTO JANET MURIKIRA

The Government of Botswana has denied reports that not less than 90 elephants had been found dead at the  Okavango Delta Sanctuary with the tusks missing in an incident termed by conservationists as one of Africa’s worst poaching incidents.

In a statement issued by Botswana’s Permanent Secretary of land management, water and sanitation services Thato Raphako, the government slammed the conservationists who had released the report over what the government terms as ‘Giving a false impression that they love Botswana wildlife more than the people’.

“To this end, the Government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public and other key stakeholders that these statistics are false and misleading. At no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana.” Read the government report.

The report on elephant poaching was made by Elephants Without Borders – EWB, a wildlife and natural resources conservation organization that is currently conducting an ariel survey of elephants at the Okavango Delta.

“…I saw hyenas’ feeding on the fresh elephant carcass. Almost simultaneously the left observer saw a second carcass – two dead elephants within a few 100m of each other – both with their faces hacked to remove their tusks.” Read the report by EWB.

Mike Chase, the director of EWB said that his survey saw 90 carcasses of elephants in scattered near a stream at the Delta a sign that the poachers had targetted the elephants whenever they went to the stream to drink water.

“During the conduct of the survey from 5th July up to 1st August 2018, EWB reported that they had come across 53 elephant carcasses which were incidents that had already been cumulatively reported officially to the Government as early as July and August of this year” read the report

According to the Government, a verification mission carried out between July and August established that majority of the elephants were not poached but died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and animal conflicts.

Botswana which houses the largest remaining population of African elephants has long been considered as the last remaining safe haven for African elephants.

Wildlife protection in Botswana is a function of the country’s army Botswana Defense Forces which has a shoot to kill order for poachers.

However, President Mokgweetsi Masisi who took office in April 2018 ordered the Wildlife protection unit of the army to be disarmed .