In the last few months, poachers have killed 87 elephants for their tusks near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana. Scientists say this is the largest elephant slaughter ever recorded in Africa.
The nonprofit group Elephants Without Borders spotted the bodies with tusks missing near Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage region, while conducting aerial surveys for the Botswana government. They fear that even more poached animals will be discovered by the time the survey is complete.
“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,” the group’s director and founder Dr. Mike Chase told BBC.
Sad news coming out of Botswana, a haven for #elephants, with dozens of animals killed. Anywhere is vulnerable to organised crime. We’ve made gains but we are not there yet & must keep up the fight! @BBCWorld https://t.co/FEP4HXGiGO #endwildlifecrime #ElephantsWithoutBorders pic.twitter.com/I11qHIcATu
— John E. Scanlon (@JohnEScanlon) September 3, 2018
Botswana has long been thought of as the last safe haven for elephants, with an estimated population of 130,000 at the last census. However, newly appointed President Mokgweetsi Masisi disarmed the country’s anti-poaching units when he took office in May. There was no explanation why.
According to National Geographic, Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks has dismissed the claims, stating that only 53 elephants were counted, and many had died from “natural causes.”
But Dr. Chase noted that there are GPS locations for every one of the 87 carcasses, and multiple witnesses saw each individual.
In addition to the horrifying loss of nearly 90 elephants, five white rhinos were also reported dead in the area, undoubtedly poached for their horns. Poaching is a huge problem in Africa, as a third of the continent’s elephants have been killed in the last 10 years alone. To support elephant conservation efforts in Botswana, visit the Elephants Without Borders page.