Thursday, September 6, 2018

Elephant Massacre in Botswana

Photos by Elephants Without Borders

An elephant carcass found during verification/ investigation exercise. Picture: Facebook/BWGovernment 

Still from video @ 

Image credit: Webpage 

White-backed and hooded vultures feed on a dead elephant carcass in Chobe National Park, Botswana. Image credit: Beckie Garbett via AP

Ninety elephant carcasses have been discovered in Botswana, Elephants Without Borders says, but the government is fiercely contesting that figure. Whatever lah but I just know that the gentle beasts are being slaughtered.

The non-profit Botswana-based organization said on Tuesday that the grim discovery of scores of dead bodies, made over a number of weeks during an aerial survey that commenced on July 10, indicated that this was surely one of Africa’s worst mass poaching orgies. 

EWB worked together with Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, asserted that most of the expired pachyderms were large bulls, which would have had heavy tusks. 

They had been shot with heavy-calibre rifles at watering spots near a popular wildlife sanctuary in the Okavango Delta in the northern part of the country. 

According to EWB's Dr Mike Chase (left), the carcasses’ skulls were "chopped open by presumably very sharp axes, to remove their tusks". In some cases, the trunks were also removed. 

I read in one news report that the killers were often impatient. They didn’t even wait for the animals to die after being shot – they had immediately started to hack and hew. It made me teary-eyed to learn of this.

Botswana has had a reputation for an unforgiving approach to poachers and had largely escaped the elephant losses seen elsewhere. 

Despite having no barricades on the international border, data from tracking collars showed the mammals retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be a safe haven. Until now.

The killings allegedly began after the government of President Mokgweetsi Masisi (right) decided to disarm the anti-poaching units that used to have a shoot-to-kill policy. 

The country, with its unfenced parks and wide-open spaces, has the largest elephant population in Africa at over 135,000. 

According to Chase, the tuskers in Zambia and Angola have been poached to the verge of local extinction, and poachers have now turned to Botswana. 

The number of African elephants (Order: Proboscidea; Family: Elephantidae; Genus: Loxodonta)  has fallen by about 111,000 to 415,000 in the past decade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

And the cold-blooded murders continue at a dizzying pace of about 30,000 elephants a year – to meet the insatiable demand for ivory in Asia, where tusks sell for about $1,000 (€860) per kilo (2.2 pounds).

Even as the world is informed about the massacre – it’s not the end. Not yet.

Botswana's 2018 Wildlife Aerial Survey is only half-way done.

The fear is real that the final figure of elephants being slain will be a lot higher. 

And Chase worries that if Botswana can’t protect its elephants, there’s little hope for the species as a whole.

Please, Batswana, it's a matter of urgency that something is done to stop the butchery. 

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