Botswana’s elephant massacre that never was

Recently the NGO Elephants Without Borders claimed to have discovered 87 elephant carcasses in Botswana. The founder of Elephants Without Borders, Mike Chase, told the BBC that, “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date.”

On 4 September 2018, the government of Botswana put out a statement in response to Elephants Without Borders’ claims. Elephants Without Borders had been contracted by the Botswana Government to carry out an aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana.

The government’s statement described Elephants Without Borders’ claims as “false and misleading”. The government stated that,

At no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana.

Government investigation

Last week, Government officials visited Chobe national park in the north of Botswana. They found 19 dead elephants. Of these, only six were killed by poachers.

Some of the elephants that Elephants Without Borders reported had been poached for their ivory still had their tusks intact. Some of the elephants had died many months ago.

Churchill Collyer, deputy director of operation at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks said,

“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.”

Agence France Presse reports that according to Botswana officials a total of 63 elephants died in Botswana this year. There was no noticeable increase in elephant poaching.

Elephants Without Borders’ statement

Last week, Elephants Without Borders posted a statement on its website, which explains that,

given the high number of elephant carcasses seen during the survey, EWB felt it a moral and patriotic duty to immediately report this to the Government of Botswana, which it did soon after the survey commenced.

Elephants Without Borders added that it is “not able, until further notice, to release any detailed information concerning the survey in general, nor potential cases of elephants poaching”, until the dissemination of the final survey report.

Survival International asked whether the elephant massacre story was fake, within days of it being reported by the BBC.

Following the investigation last week by the Botswana authorities, Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said,

“It’s now proven beyond doubt that the ‘elephant massacre’ didn’t happen. It’s been invented and pushed by those advocating greater militarization of conservation. This is the same failed approach that is alienating hundreds of thousands of local and tribal people around the world – the very people who should be in the driving seat of conservation.”

Corry told AFP that he expected more reports “stirring up panic over the increasing threat of poaching” in the build up to an Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference that the UK government is hosting next month in London.
 

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