Close to 90 elephants were found dead near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, as conservationists warned of what could be the largest-scale wave of poaching deaths in Africa thus far.
According to BBC News, an aerial survey from the conservationist group Elephants Without Borders revealed that the carcasses of 87 dead elephants were discovered near Botswana’s Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, a known tourist location in the country that still boasts of the world’s largest elephant population. The report added that the dead animals were found shortly after Botswana deactivated its anti-poaching unit and appeared to have been killed a few weeks ago for their tusks.
“I’m shocked, I’m completely astounded. The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date,” said Elephants Without Borders scientist Mike Chase.
“When I compare this to figures and data from the Great Elephant Census, which I conducted in 2015, we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa.”
In previous years, Botswana had been well known for its strict anti-poaching policies, as elephants within the country’s boundaries were mostly considered safe from the threat of hunting, as noted by BBC News. While things began to change about two years ago, when Chase first discovered several elephant carcasses without their tusks close to the Namibian border, the recent discovery was especially alarming because the dead animals were found deep into Botswana and relatively close to a protected wildlife sanctuary. According to Chase, this might have been a result of the country’s decision to disarm its anti-poaching unit.
“The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana. We have the world’s largest elephant population and it’s open season for poachers.”
“Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey.”
Although the discovery of 87 dead elephants was alarming enough in itself, BBC News wrote that Elephants Without Borders’ aerial survey is only at the halfway point, which could point to a good chance of many more elephant carcasses being found as the survey continues. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time in recent months that Chase warned about the scale of elephant poaching in Botswana. According to the South African, Chase reported that there were 55 poached elephant carcasses discovered as of the first week of August, including 33 that were killed in the three months prior, and 22 that were “fresh and thought to have been killed within days of each other.”