Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

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Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:41 pm

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Dr Mike Chase grimly views a dead elephant. Copyright, Elephants without Borders.

BY LOUISE DE WAAL - 6 AUGUST 2018 - THE SOUTH AFRICAN -

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Photo credit: Michael-Lorentz

Last week, the carcass of a 40-year old elephant bull was found in Ngamiland, northern Botswana, partly covered with still green Mopane bushes and half of its skull hacked away by poachers to remove its tusks. The bull was killed during full moon two days earlier.

Elephant poaching

“This recent incident brings the total number of poached elephant carcasses since our elephant survey began to 55. Thirty-three of the poached carcasses we suspect were killed in the last three months, while the remaining 22 are fresh and thought to have been killed within days of each other,” says Dr Mike Chase from Elephants Without Borders (EWB).

“The GPS locations of the dead elephants and photographic evidence were provided immediately to the authorities, who had no prior knowledge of these incidents,” Chase states.

Additional poaching incidents have been reported to the authorities, such as the fresh elephant carcass found two weeks ago in Linyanti. This incident was particularly brutal, as the elephant was found with a severed spine to stop it from moving while the poachers hacked its tusks away.

The hunting ban

On the 5th July, EWB and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) started the 2018 wildlife census of northern Botswana, where its core conservation areas are located.

This aerial survey, expected to be completed by October this year, is even more pertinent after a motion was tabled by Maun East MP Mr Kostantinos Markus. Markus proposed to lift the hunting ban on elephants in Botswana in areas outside of game reserves and national parks, especially in marginal rangelands, to reduce human-elephant conflict.

Conservation organisations, such as EWB, say lifting the hunting ban will have little impact on human-elephant conflict, such as crop destruction. Trophy hunting targets mostly large bulls and happens during the dry season, while crops tend to be raided by young bulls or family herds during the rainy season.

On Thursday, the Minister of Natural Resources Conservation, Tshekedi Khama condemned calls by the assistant minister of Presidential Affairs, Mochana Shamukuni, calling on residents of the tourist town of Chobe to shoot elephants on sight for causing damage to their crops.

The decline in the elephant population

The 2014 Great Elephant Census counted a total number of 352,271 Savanna elephants across 18 African countries. It estimated that the overall elephant population has declined by 30% since 2007, which is believed to be primarily due to poaching.

Botswana’s parliament passed the motion on the 21st June, reconsidering the 2014 hunting ban imposed by former president Ian Khama, after surveys showed declining wildlife populations in northern Botswana.

Botswana’s elephant population is estimated at 130,000 and has been stable for the past 15 years, although the population seems to be decreasing in the Chobe area.

What is being done?

The current wildlife survey is planned to establish the latest numbers. However, nobody expected the ongoing survey to highlight an increase in wildlife poaching incidents and especially not this early in the process. The number of fresh poaching carcasses found so far in the 2018 census is already more than recorded during the entire 2014 survey.

Poaching of wildlife and particularly elephant poaching occurs frequently along Botswana’s international borders and mostly foreign nationals have been implicated in ivory poaching and smuggling. However, this new data shows that wildlife poaching is on the increase from within Botswana’s borders and in some cases even close to game drive tracks and safari lodges.

A recent rhino poaching incident in the Ghanzi District, the second rhino poaching incident of the year in this area, is a further example of this trend and emphasises the need for the Botswana government to intensify their anti-poaching efforts.

“On the 17th July, concerned by the increasing numbers of poached elephants the survey team was recording, I wrote a letter to His Excellency President Masisi, requesting his swift response to addressing illegal wildlife trafficking in Botswana,” says Chase.

Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo, Director of the DWNP, responded:

“I convened a meeting of all security forces, with the assistance of the Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, to discuss this matter. Unfortunately, we agreed that the proceedings be kept to security forces and DWNP only. Safe to say a plan has been put in place to deal with the matter, but we must agree it involves some other countries and cannot be solved overnight.”

Chase responds, “It is difficult to ascertain how the authorities are responding to this increasing trend. At what stage do we pull our heads out of the sand and admit we have an elephant poaching problem and do something to stop it?”

Read full article: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/conserv ... -botswana/

https://conservationaction.co.za/media- ... -botswana/
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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:16 pm

Dozens of elephant carcasses found in Botswana, revealing ‘unprecedented’ levels of poaching


BY JUDITH VONBERG & INGRID FORMANEK - 4 SEPTEMBER 2018 - CNN


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Almost 90 elephant carcasses have been found during a survey in northern Botswana, revealing “unprecedented” levels of poaching in the country, the conservation group carrying out the study has said.

Just nine carcasses were discovered in total during the last audit of the region in 2014, and Elephants Without Borders is expecting this year’s number to rise further because the organization is only halfway through the study, which began on July 5 and is largely funded by Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

“While we had elephant poaching in the country before this year, it certainly wasn’t of the magnitude that we’re seeing now. It’s completely unprecedented,” Mike Chase, the director and founder of Elephants Without Borders, told CNN.

“We were always warned that the poaching that has happened in East Africa and parts of northern Mozambique may spread south. What I’m astounded by is the scale and the speed at which it has happened.”

Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants in Africa — an estimated 130,000 — and has long been seen as a haven for the animals, which have been heavily poached in nearby Angola and Zambia.

That is now changing, according to Chase. While cases of ivory poaching were previously reported only along the country’s international borders, this latest survey shows that poaching has moved into the Okavango Delta, a prime tourist destination deep inside northern Botswana, suggesting that Botswana citizens are becoming more involved in poaching activities.

Poachers ‘Have Followed’ Elephants to Botswana

Chase attributes the changes to two factors: heavy poaching in Angola and Zambia that has left local populations on the verge of extinction, and the disarming of Botswana’s anti-poaching unit (APU) in May.

Before European colonization, scientists believe that Africa may have held as many as 20 million elephants; by 1979 only 1.3 million remained. The first Great Elephant Census, a pan-African survey of the continent’s savanna elephants in 2016, revealed that the situation had gotten far worse.

Between 2007 and 2014, numbers plummeted by at least 30%, or 144,000 elephants, the census found.

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The Great Elephant Census, first conducted in 2016, revealed that the number of elephants across Africa was falling rapidly.

In Botswana, elephants were long thought to be safe. Members of an armed anti-poaching unit patrolled the elephants’ habitats, while Botswana’s military was mobilized throughout the border region, tasked with preventing poaching.

In May this year, the anti-poaching unit was disarmed as part of a broader action in which military weapons and equipment were withdrawn from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), according to a government statement.

Unarmed patrolmen cannot be expected “to patrol and possibly have contact with armed poachers,” Chase said, adding that he had not seen any members of the APU in the bush during the first two months of the survey.

Asked by CNN Tuesday about the disarming of the APU and the rise in elephant poaching in Botswana, Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo, director of the DWNP, declined to comment but said the government would soon be releasing a statement on the issue.

Heavy poaching in Angola is also contributing to the current problems in Botswana, according to EWB.

“Those elephants that weren’t killed are moving back to the safety of Botswana, and the poachers have followed them,” Chase said.

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Botswana has often been referred to a haven for elephants, but Chase said there is now evidence of a high poaching rate.

Demand for Ivory Despite Bans

In January this year, China enacted a ban on the sale of ivory products. It followed a near-total embargo by the United States in 2016, and the UK is currently considering introducing “one of the world’s toughest” bans on ivory sales in a bid to protect elephants. The European Union has yet to enact an ivory ban.

But demand remains for the luxury product and Chase warned against complacency.

The initial results of EWB’s survey suggest poachers are primarily targeting the largest, oldest bulls in the population, known as great tuskers. The ivory is hacked away by a sharp axe and the carcasses covered with bushes in an attempt to conceal the kill, according to Chase. Numbers of great tuskers across Africa have dwindled to about 50, according to various estimates by conservationists.

It is also clear that poachers are moving into increasingly remote areas areas to hunt elephants. Six carcasses were discovered Monday during an aerial patrol in one of the region’s least accessible areas, Chase said.

Threat to Tourism

Botswana’s wildlife attracts large numbers of visitors, and tourism is the country’s second-largest earner.

The surge in poaching potentially threatens not only a major source of Botswana’s income, but also its reputation as a conservation leader on the continent.

The rising elephant deaths and the poaching of six rhinos in Botswana this year suggests that the killings may be the work of organized syndicates.

Read full article: https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/04/africa/b ... index.html
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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Flutterby » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:20 pm

:-( :-(

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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by stefan9 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:10 pm

Very sad

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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by RogerFraser » Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:15 pm

BWgovernment
September 4 at 6:59 PM
RESPONSE REGARDING THE ALLEGED INDISCRIMINATE KILLING OF ELEPHANTS IN BOTSWANA
40684326_1835868479829135_1812700469219295232_n.jpg
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The Government of Botswana has noted with concern unsubstantiated and sensational media reports on elephant poaching statistics in Botswana carried by some local and international media attributed to Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a non-governmental organisation contracted by the Botswana Government to carry out the dry season aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana covering Chobe, Okavango, Ngamiland and North Central District. The stories allege that about 90 elephants have been indiscriminately killed recently.

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.

The Government of Botswana wishes to further inform that the survey conducted by EWB started on 5th July 2018 and is expected to end by 30th September 2018.

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.

Of the aforementioned 53 reported, a verification mission between July and August established that the majority were not poached but rather died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and wildlife conflicts.
The Government of Botswana wishes to state that it is unfortunate that some media reports attribute the rise in elephant poaching primarily to the withdrawal of weapons from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit. The fact of the matter is that the withdrawal of such weapons from DWNP, did not in any way affect the effectiveness and operations of the anti-poaching units.

It should be noted that the Government of Botswana has from the 1980’s directed all security agencies to commit resources towards anti-poaching, a practice that continues to this date. Therefore the withdrawal of weapons from DWNP has not created any vacuum in anti-poaching operations as the anti-poaching unit in DWNP continues to play a pivotal role in combating wildlife crime through other strategic interventions.

Furthermore the public is informed that withdrawing weapons from DWNP is in line with the existing legislation which does not allow the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to own such weapons. This action was taken whilst corrective measures are to be undertaken.

In conclusion, the Government of Botswana wishes to condemn in the strongest terms possible attempts by individuals or groups who give a false impression that they love Botswana wildlife more than citizens of Botswana. Government wishes to reiterate the fact that wildlife remains a national heritage and our citizens will protect it at all costs.

Thank you.

[Signed]
Thato Y. Raphaka
PERMANENT SECRETARY

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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Richprins » Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:15 pm

Who to believe? -O-
Please check Needs Attention pre-booking: https://africawild-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=322&t=596

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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:29 pm

We all know that medias tend to choose the most scandalous version of any news O**
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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:22 am

After elephant killings, Botswana mulls lifting hunting ban

2018-09-12 21:22 AFP

Botswana launched a review on Wednesday of a 2014 hunting ban imposed to reverse a decline in elephants and other wildlife.

The prohibition on big game sports hunting was the work of ex-president Ian Khama, a keen conservationist, to shield species decimated by hunting and habitat loss.

But lawmakers from the ruling Botswana Democratic party have been lobbying to overturn the ban, especially on elephant hunting, saying populations have become unmanageably large in parts - placing the animals on a collision course with humans.

Khama's successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, launched a month of nationwide consultations on Wednesday that could ring in the end of the ban.

Consultations with different interest groups, in the tourism hub of Maun, "commence this afternoon," Rural Development Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told AFP.

"President Masisi is scheduled to meet researchers. Tomorrow he will address a kgotla (traditional gathering)."

The review comes five months after Khama relinquished power to Masisi, and just days after a wildlife charity said about 90 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks in Botswana in recent months.

Masisi's government rejected Elephants Without Borders' claims of a pachyderm massacre.

With its unfenced parks and wide open spaces, landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, at over 135 000.

The number of elephants on the continent has fallen by around 111 000 to 415 000 in the past decade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:37 am

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Botswana’s elephant poaching crisis under scrutiny
BY LOUISE DE WAAL - 25 SEPTEMBER 2018 - IOL -

Reports of elephant poaching in Botswana are under the spotlight with various claims in national and international media that the current adverse situation is driven by anti-poaching budget cuts, disarming of anti-poaching units, poachers being spoilt for choice with wildlife finding a safe-haven in the country, and even the trophy hunting ban.

There is no doubt that these factors play some part in the rising elephant poaching incidents in Botswana. However, wildlife poaching, and in particular the poaching of elephants, is not unique to Botswana and has significantly reduced elephant populations across the African continent.

In 2014, conservationists raised concerns that the poaching syndicates decimating the East and Central African elephant populations, would move further south making southern Africa their next target.

At that time, Elephants Without Border (EWB) noted increased poaching incidents in northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, southeast Angola, and Zambia during their aerial wildlife surveys.

Botswana’s elephant population has however been stable for the last 15 years at around 130 000, which is testament to the country’s excellent conservation record.

Nevertheless, the number of poaching incidents has been on the increase, which was confirmed by the 87 elephant carcasses recorded during the ongoing EWB aerial wildlife survey that started in July this year.

The Botswana government disagrees with these recorded poaching incidents and requested a report from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism on the extent of the recent elephant killings.

Dr Unity Dow (Botswana Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation) stated in a press conference in Gaborone earlier this week that the report was expected “to shed light on the major causes of death regarding the alleged massacre and assist government on making an informed decision on how best to clear the confusion and set the record straight”.

No further announcements on the report have been made by the Botswana government so far.

Recent media claims that this could be directly attributed to the disarming of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching unit of automatic weapons is nebulous.

This relatively small DWNP team is still armed with rifles and has always been and still is supported by a much larger and fully armed anti-poaching units from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).

In a media statement, Thato Y. Raphaka (Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism) said “that withdrawing weapons from DWNP is in line with the existing legislation, which does not allow the DWNP to own such weapons”.

Dr Dow added in the press conference that “the call should have been to expand the army, making sure there are more army officers to ensure greater safety against poaching instead of calling to rearm the DWNP”.

However Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, believes that “there is no doubt the disarming of the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) could have contributed to the high rates of poaching in the Chobe area”.

The safari tourism industry plays a vital role in Botswana’s economy, nature conservation and community development, and the country has always been a leader in eco-tourism. Many safari operators provide regular on the ground intelligence to the DWNP.

The industry will however need to step up to the task in assisting the BDF and the DWNP in their anti-poaching efforts to counter the poaching tsunami that has started to target Southern Africa’s great elephant herds.

Examples of this are emerging in northern Botswana, where a poaching awareness group made up from a number of competing, but concerned safari operators and concessionaires has been established by the private sector to assist the authorities more effectively.

Derek de la Harpe (Commercial Director – Wilderness Safaris) says “although we do not have authority to conduct any law enforcement operations, we will continue to cooperate with the responsible authorities and to provide any support that they feel is appropriate, if and when incidents do occur”.

Some stakeholders believe that Botswana needs the political will to (re-)allocate vacant concessions in Ngamiland, around the Okavango Delta and along the boundaries of Chobe National Park, which could aid in curbing the surge in wildlife poaching.

“Some of these more remote, marginal concessions would require a new type of non-consumptive wildlife tourism operation. And with vision, time and money they could potentially work for self-drive routes, mobile safaris, waterhole wildlife viewing and for tourists who looking for space – the new luxury in today’s busy world”, says Colin Bell (Director – Natural Selection).

The development of now vacant concessions would not only bring additional tourism revenue for the Botswana government through VAT and resources royalty payments, but would also create employment for local communities. In terms of the poaching crisis, it would mean more eyes and ears on the ground and traversing safari vehicles in large areas currently devoid of people, where poachers now have free rein.

Ian Michler (Co-Founder and Director – Invent Africa Safaris) says “it would seem that Botswana, along with Kruger in South Africa is now being targeted. It will be a fatal mistake if we hide from the early warning signs being collected in the field.”

One of these early warning signs seems to be a worrying trend in Botswana’s elephant poaching incidents, where the vast majority of the casualties are large 70+ pound ivory bulls that are seemingly being tracked and shot to order by the criminal syndicates.

“We have seen how effective responses from governments and the tourism and conservation sectors working together can have significant impacts. Kenya is a great example and look at what organizations such as African Parks and the PAMS Foundation have achieved. If any country is going to be able to stem poaching, it should be Botswana as they have a great conservation record, a vibrant ecotourism sector and to date, a willing and committed government”, Michler concludes.

Read original article: https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/bots ... y-17216246
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Re: Elephant poaching on the increase in Botswana

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:56 am

Botswana elephant poaching debate: Wildlife vet speaks his mind

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Opinion post written by Dr FJ (Erik) Verreynne – a wildlife and livestock vet with a post-graduate wildlife management degree, who has been practising in Botswana since 2002.

Driving on the white gravel road from Seronga, past Eretsha, Betsa and Gudigwa, to the village of Gunostoga in the northwest of Botswana marks the boundary between the flood plains of NG12 to the south and the dry mopane veld of NG11 and NG13 in the north. The Namibian border is roughly 80km to the north. To the north from here, along the Caprivi strip, is one of the areas reported to contain the so-called strewn carcasses of the many poached elephants.

There is no better area to seek perspective on the BBC article where Elephants without Borders raised the alarm on a large numbers of elephants being poached in Botswana.

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Gravel road to Gunotsoga in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

The gravel road connecting the area is here because the people are here. And the people are here because the water and the floodplains are here. And so are the wildlife. It has been like this for many years, long before the areas to the south and east were re-classified as photographic safari areas. Long before local people were stopped from hunting or herding their cattle to the apple leaf sandy ridges to the south.

People were and are still working their fields in the wet season, or herding their cattle on the floodplains during the dry season. They are fishing from mokoros and harvesting reeds for building shelters and houses.

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Cattle herd in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

The elephants have always been here, mixing with people and other wildlife and taking chances with raiding crops. But they were perceived as much less of a menace then, reportedly because they were fewer in number. In general people got by without major issues and life at large was peaceful. NG12 was a controlled hunting area, and elephants and other wildlife were hunted in a controlled manner, supervised by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, while communities benefited either directly or indirectly by means of employment, money or meat.

The nearby open international borders posed a poaching threat and the Botswana Defence Force was deployed along the border after two recent episodes of near total extinction of rhinos by poachers.

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Botswana landscape
© Erik Verreynne

It all changed a few years ago when the hunting of elephant and other wildlife in the area was banned. The ban was put in place after little consultation, motivated by blaming dwindling wildlife numbers on overhunting with no tangible evidence of real cause. Hunting concessions were then converted into photographic safari concessions.

Photographic tourism was subsequently greatly promoted, and labelling Botswana as a safe haven for elephants and rhinos was at the core of the tourism marketing drive. Elephant population numbers were manipulated and inflated to as much as 200,000 to celebrate the conservation success and to lure more people. Tourism, as one of the main earners of foreign exchange, grew tremendously and surpassed agriculture as part of the GDP, while the influx of elephants resulted in dispersal all over Botswana, causing widespread human-wildlife conflict and vegetation damage, and placed enormous strain on Botswana’s compensation and anti-poaching resources.

To achieve greater control over the nature-based tourism growth process, wildlife resources were centralised, and local responsibilities and benefits were largely taken away from the communities. The benefits of tourism only benefited a few large companies, leaving the communities behind with the stark reality of the shear number of elephants (and predator conflict). While the world was celebrating Botswana tourism stakeholders with rewards and accolades, the picture in rural Botswana looked quite different – that of locals paying a high price.

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Elephant damage to a tree in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

So here is part of that dark picture. This remote area, that Thalefang Charles refers to as “Overseas”, has about 16,000 people and 18,000 elephants. More than 16,000 cattle graze the floodplain between Seronga and Gudigwa. Small settlements dot the area between the villages all along the road, on the floodplains and into the dry north.

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Elephant corridor sign in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

As you drive along the road, signs by a conservation NGO indicate the elephant corridors that the elephants use to reach the water on the floodplain. This is to prevent future development, but does not safeguard the houses and fields already established in the way of the ever increasing elephant herds.

To some extent, these signs are rather ironic. The short stunted mopane shrubs strewn with skeletons of large trees interspersed with well-worn elephant paths and heaps of elephant dung where they cross the road, is stating the obvious.

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Stripped vegetation due to elephants in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

As the rain-filled waterholes in the north are drying up, the elephant herds need to walk south to the floodplains to drink every day, not only intensifying the human-wildlife conflict, but causing an ever radiating devastation to the vegetation which is now also starting to affect the large trees on the islands of the floodplains.

They arrive at dusk and leave again at dawn, preventing human movement in the dark. Where it used to be only elephant bulls hanging around on the floodplains during the day, now some cow herds do not leave, staying close to villages and preventing free movement of people from working their fields or tending to their livestock – even during the daylight hours. For not only water, but also browse is getting scarce in the north. And the crop raiding during the rainy season has escalated and some people have stopped planting.

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Vultures eating elephant carcass in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

Close to the road on the floodplain near the village of Gunotsoga lies the carcass of a female elephant, with vultures cleaning the hollows in her skull where her tusks have been removed. This is the matriarch of a small herd. She killed an old man on the road three weeks ago. He left on foot for the village from his settlement at about six in the morning but never goth there. His mutilated body was found next to the road by a passerby, with the story written in the sand – a tale of unprovoked fury by the cow elephant.

She must have been enraged by a very bad experience with people. She charged at him from nearly 80 metres away, tusking and tossing him several times before rejoining her herd far on the opposite side of the road. She was shot by an officer of the Department the same day, and the tusks removed for safe keeping. The community was furious about the killing of the old man, and two other elephants were apparently killed shortly after by community members in retaliation, the bodies left with the tusks intact…

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Rural village in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

So back to the BBC article and the pure hate and condemnation it has provoked from some circles. Allow me some perspective while remembering the souls of the old man and the elephant matriarch, and so many old men and elephants in villages all over the north of Botswana. No good will come from their deaths if it based on lies.

Firstly, the anti-poaching units were never disarmed. Their military weapons were removed as it is against the law in Botswana and they are already assisted by the Botswana Defence Force which is suitably armed and equipped. The APU’S still have their semi-automatic weapons. So blaming the poaching on the “deweaponising” of the law enforcement agencies is not factual or logical.

The areas in question are close to the Namibian border, and away from the core areas usually covered by the APU’s where a number of Defence Force Units are already deployed. Despite the presence of these units, the alleged killing of such large numbers of elephants in such a short period of time was not noticed. Some areas involved are prone to anthrax-related mortalities. As such the spatial and time scale claims, and the cause of mortality as claimed by the BBC report, are to be questioned.

Furthermore, the statement that the scale of poaching recorded by EWB was not witnessed before, seems sensation driven since East Africa lost 30,000 elephants per year (80 per day) not so long ago.

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Elephant in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

Botswana does not approve of poaching on any scale. Our past track record is proof of that. But Botswana as a safe haven is a marketing stunt. It does not exist and will never exist because no such haven country exists anywhere in Africa.

With the number of elephants in Botswana, the scale of human-elephant conflict, the geographical challenges and the regional onslaught, it is inevitable that we will experience a degree of poaching. And poaching will most likely increase. But with an annual elephant population increase of 5%, on 154,000 elephants in Botswana, even the BBC reported poaching rate is insignificant and will not threaten elephants as a species in Botswana. To hold Botswana responsible for the conservation of the whole African elephant population is unfair.

No international vocalisation will reduce the scale of the poaching in Botswana. Poachers do not read newspapers or Facebook. It is our responsibility and we are not afraid to take it on. That also include admitting when things are not working.

The previous exclusive conservation policy has now been proven to be disastrous and very expensive to our national budget. Not only the elephants, but also people and other species like the rhinos in the Delta are in jeopardy.

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Tree damage due to elephants in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

Change is imperative and you need to give us that chance.

We need to shift the emphasis of our poaching mitigation in Botswana away from our ability to arm our APU’s or to ban hunting, or even on the size of the tourism industry. We need to base it on our ability to restore a safe and stable rural, political and economical environment combined with pragmatic conservation measures where local communities are part and parcel of the responsibilities and benefits of sustainable conservation.

We also need to redefine co-existence – not to fulfil a western conservation doctrine, but to include a workable definition based on sustainability for communities and wildlife.

Culling the elephants is not a solution due to the numbers involved. As such the proposed lifting of the hunting ban will not negatively affect the numbers. The annual elephant trophy hunting quota for Botswana never exceeded 400 animals per year, complimented by a small number of citizen hunting licenses. But hunting may provide a fast track to tangible benefits for the hardest hit communities, until a better sustainable solution can be established. And hunting in hot spot conflict areas may induce elephant movement out of those areas, as has happened in neighbouring range states (to our detriment).

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Cattle in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne

Additionally we need to shift emphasis of our tourism marketing drives.

For too long we have built our nature-based tourism industry on a false illusion of “pristineness” that excludes any signs of human existence. It is these illusions that allow for the current hype of emotions based on misleading reporting. The wilderness areas in Africa were never without people and will never be without people. By excluding people, and allowing elephant numbers to get out of hand in Botswana, we are running the risk of losing more elephants and other wildlife through the conflict, poaching and starvation than are sacrificed through hunting. And I dare not imagine the cruelty that goes with that scenario.

At the same time we should educate tourists to accept that people and livestock are part of the environment, and the safari experience that they are paying for.

Our President needs support in his conservation approach. He does not deserve the condemnation that followed the BBC article. If any are to be blamed, then perhaps look at neighbouring elephant range countries and their lack of taking responsibility for their own elephants.

It is the right of Batswana to live in a safe environment. It is embedded in our Constitution, as it is in most countries’ Constitutions. And to impose measures that we can afford. Only when we are feeling safe and secure will we be able to conserve our rich wildlife heritage. And for now we are threatened by our own success.

Give us some room? Change is never without pain. Especially to those who benefited most in the past.

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Elephant feeding in Botswana
© Erik Verreynne
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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