Ele­phant poach­ing on the in­crease in Botswana

The Witness - - FEATURES - LOUISE DE WAAL

LAST­week,­the­car­cass­of­a­40-year-old­ele­phant­bull­was­found­in­Ngami­land,north­ern­Botswana,­partly­cov­ered­with­still­green­Mopane­bushes­and­half­ofits­skull­hacked­away­by­poach­ers­to­re­move­its­tusks.

The­bull­was­killed­dur­ing­full­moontwo­days­ear­lier.

“This­re­cent­in­ci­dent­brings­the­to­tal­num­ber­of­poached­ele­phant­car­cassess­ince­our­ele­phant­sur­vey­be­gan­to­55.

“Thirty-three­of­the­poached­car­casses­we­sus­pect­were­killed­in­the­last­three­months,­while­the­re­main­ing­22­are­fre­s­hand­thought­to­have­been­killed­within­days­of­each­other,”­says­Dr­Mike­Chase­from­ Ele­phants­ With­out­ Bor­ders(EWB).

“The­GPS­lo­ca­tions­of­the­dead­ele­phants­and­pho­to­graphic­ev­i­dence­were­pro­vided­ im­me­di­ately­ to­ the­ au­thor­i­ties,who­ had­ no­ prior­ knowl­edge­ ofthese­in­ci­dents.”

Ad­di­tional­ poach­ing­ in­ci­dents­ have­been­re­ported­to­the­au­thor­i­ties,­suchas­the­fresh­ele­phant­car­cass­found­twoweeks­ago­in­Linyanti.

This­in­ci­dent­was­par­tic­u­larly­bru­tal,as­the­ele­phant­was­found­with­a­sev­ered­ spine­to­stop­it­from­mov­ing­while­the­p­oach­ers­hacked­its­tusks­away.

On­July­5,­EWB­and­the­Depart­mentof­Wildlife­and­Na­tional­Parks­(DWNP)started­ the­ 2018­ wildlife­ cen­sus­ ofnorth­ern­Botswana,­where­its­core­con­ser­va­tion­ar­eas­are­lo­cated.

This­ ae­rial­ sur­vey,­ ex­pected­ to­ be­com­pleted­by­Oc­to­ber­this­year,­is­even­more­ per­ti­nent­ af­ter­ a­ mo­tion­ was­ tabledby­ Maun­ East­ MP­ Kostanti­nosMarkus.

He­pro­posed­to­lift­the­hunt­ing­banon­ele­phants­in­Botswana­in­ar­eas­out­side­of­game­re­serves­and­na­tional­parks,es­pe­cially­in­mar­ginal­range­lands,­to­re­duce­hu­man-ele­phant­con­flict.

Con­ser­va­tion­or­gan­i­sa­tions,­such­asEWB,­ say­ lift­ing­ the­ hunt­ing­ ban­ will­have­ lit­tle­ im­pact­ on­ hu­man-ele­phant­con­flict,­such­as­crop­de­struc­tion.

Tro­phy­hunt­ing­tar­gets­mostly­large­bulls­and­hap­pens­dur­ing­the­dry­sea­son,while­crops­tend­to­be­raided­by­young­bulls­ or­ fam­ily­ herds­ dur­ing­ the­ rainy­sea­son.

Last­Thursday,­the­Min­is­ter­of­Nat­u­ralRe­sources­ Con­ser­va­tion­ TshekediKhama­con­demned­calls­by­the­as­sis­tant­min­is­ter­of­Pres­i­den­tial­Af­fairs,­Mochana­Shamukuni,­urg­ing­res­i­dents­of­the tourism­ town­ of­ Chobe­ to­ shoot­ ele­phants­on­sight­for­caus­ing­dam­age­totheir­crops.

The­ 2014­ Great­ Ele­phant­ Cen­sus­ counted­a­to­tal­num­ber­of­352­271­Sa­vanna­ele­phants­across­18­African­coun­tries.

It­es­ti­mated­that­the­overall­ele­phant­pop­u­la­tion­has­de­clined­by­30%­since­ 2007,­which­is­be­lieved­to­be­pri­mar­i­ly­due­to­poach­ing.

Botswana’s­ par­lia­ment­ passed­ the­mo­tion­ on­ June­ 21,­ re­con­sid­er­ing­ the­ 2014­ hunt­ing­ ban­ im­posed­ by­ for­mer­pres­i­dent­ Ian­ Khama,­ af­ter­ sur­veysshowed­de­clin­ing­wildlife­pop­u­la­tions­in­north­ern­ Botswana.

Botswana’s­ele­phant­pop­u­la­tion­is­es­ti­mated­at­130­000­and­has­been­sta­ble­for­the­past­15­years,­although­the­pop­u­la­tion­seems­ to­ be­ de­creas­ing­ in­ theChobe­ area.

The­cur­rent­wildlife­sur­vey­is­plannedto­ es­tab­lish­ the­ lat­est­ num­bers.

How­ever,­no­body­ex­pected­the­on­go­ing­sur­vey­ to­ high­light­ an­ in­crease­ in­wildlife­ poach­ing­ in­ci­dents­ and­ es­pe­cially­not­this­early­in­the­process.

The­ num­ber­ of­ fresh­ poach­ing­ car­casses­found­so­far­in­the­2018­cen­su­sis­al­ready­more­than­recorded­dur­ing­theen­tire­ 2014­ sur­vey.

Poach­ing­of­wildlife­and­par­tic­u­lar­lyele­phants­oc­curs­fre­quently­along­Botswana’s­in­ter­na­tional­bor­ders­and­mostly­for­eign­na­tion­als­have­been­im­pli­cated­in­ivory­poach­ing­and­smug­gling.

How­ever,­ this­ new­ data­ shows­ thatwildlife­poach­ing­is­on­the­in­crease­fromwithin­Botswana’s­bor­ders­and­in­some­cases­even­close­to­game­drive­tracks­and­sa­fari­ lodges.

A­re­cent­rhino­poach­ing­in­ci­dent­inthe­ Ghanzi­ Dis­trict,­ the­ sec­ond­ rhino­ poach­ing­ in­ci­dent­ of­ the­ year­ in­ this­area­,­is­a­fur­ther­ex­am­ple­of­this­tren­dand­em­pha­sises­the­need­for­the­Botswanan­gov­ern­ment­to­in­ten­sify­their­an­tipoaching­ef­forts.

“On­...­July­17,­con­cerned­by­the­in­creas­ing­num­bers­of­poached­ele­phants­the­sur­vey­team­was­record­ing,­I­wrotea­let­ter­to­His­Ex­cel­lency­Pres­i­dent­Ma­sisi,­re­quest­ing­his­swift­re­sponse­to­ad­dressingille­gal­ wildlife­ traf­fick­ing­ in­Botswana,”­ said­ Chase.

Ma­jor-Gen­eral­Otisitswe­Tiroy­amod­imo,­di­rec­tor­of­the­DWNP,­re­sponded:“I­con­vened­a­meet­ing­of­all­se­cu­rity­forces,with­ the­ as­sis­tance­ of­ the­ Com­man­der­of­the­Botswana­De­fence­Force,to­ dis­cuss­ this­ mat­ter.

“Un­for­tu­nately,­ we­ agreed­ that­ the­p­ro­ceed­ings­ be­ kept­ to­ se­cu­rity­ force­sand­DWNP­only.­Safe­to­say­a­plan­has­been­put­in­place­to­deal­with­the­mat­ter,but­we­must­agree­it­in­volves­some­oth­er­coun­tries­ and­ can­not­ be­ solved­ overnight.”

Chase­said:­“It­is­dif­fi­cult­to­as­cer­tain­how­ the­ au­thor­i­ties­ are­ re­spond­ing­ tothis­in­creas­ing­trend.­At­what­stage­dowe­pull­our­heads­out­of­the­sand­an­dad­mit­ we­ have­ an­ ele­phant­ poach­ing­prob­lem­and­do­some­thing­to­stop­it?”

Ele­phant poach­ing in Botswana is on the in­crease.

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