Botswana Disputes Claims of Unprecedented Elephant Slaughter

Published: 21 September 2018

640px-Maribou storks having a go at the old elephant carcass along with the crocodiles 12223268994 1Storks eat an elephant carcass (CC 2.0)

By Aisha Kehoe Down

Two weeks after conservation officials alleged there’d been an unprecedented slaughter of elephants in Botswana’s national parks, the country’s officials challenged their numbers, saying this year’s elephant killings were at a normal level.

“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,” said Churchill Collyer, deputy director of the country’s wildlife department. 

Media reports of nearly 90 elephant carcasses littered across the plains of Botswana circulated widely two weeks ago, prompted by an aerial survey done by Mark Chase, director of the charity Elephants Without Borders (EWB). 

Chase said he had never seen as many elephant corpses before, calling it “indicative of a poaching frenzy which has been ongoing in the same area for a long time.” 

Pictures of the carcasses show flaps of elephant hide tightening over bone, their tusks and heads hacked away. The news rattled Botswana’s image as a safer country for elephants, with less heavy poaching than Zambia and South Africa.

The trade in illegal ivory is an income for armed groups across Africa, including al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab. It’s estimated that 30,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa to meet demand for ivory in Asia.

In response to the news, Botswana officials said they did their own survey, but found fewer carcasses than EWB claimed there were, some of which were six months old, and not all of which had been poached. 

In a statement, EWB stood by its findings, writing, “During this survey an unusually high number of elephant carcasses were seen by the survey team.”

However, said EWB, it would not be able to release its data until it disseminates its final report on the survey.