Blow to conservation after nearly ninety elephants get butchered in Africa’s last sanctuary

The deaths are a huge blow to Botswana which with its 130,000 elephants had been described as the last elephants’ sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.

Conservation group, Elephants Without Borders have disclosed that nearly ninety elephants have been killed in Botswana and almost all of the dead animals had their tusks removed sending a  clear and strong signal that the poachers may have been behind the incident .

“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,”  Dr. Mike Chase with Elephants Without Borders told the BBC.

Elephants Without Borders are currently conducting a countrywide survey and made the alarming discovery that is sure to send chills down conservationists spines.

The country’s stern approach to poachers and armed and well-managed anti-poaching units had managed to keep many poachers at bay and as a result had largely escaped the elephant losses seen elsewhere, providing a safe haven to the African endangered elephant.

Despite a lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe.

“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,” he added.

Dr. Chase who is the scientist carrying out an extensive survey of the deaths said this new incident could have a devastating effect on Botswana’s tourism industry.

He also linked the incident to the disarming of Botswana’s anti-poaching unit since the coming into office of President Eric Masisi.

“This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana government. Botswana has always been at the forefront of conservation and it will require political will.

“Our new president must uphold Botswana’s legacy and tackle this problem quickly. Tourism is vitally important for our economy, jobs, as well as our international reputation, which is at stake here as being a safe stronghold for elephants.” said Mr Chase.

The government at the time of disarming the anti-poaching unit did not give a reason for the move and has also yet to respond to the latest report.

The current deaths are said to have happened weeks back and further in the country close to the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary.

The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana. It’s known for its sprawling grassy plains, which flood seasonally, becoming a lush animal habitat. It is described as Africa’s last eden.

The survey is still underway and it is feared that the final figure could be higher.

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