Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It has recently witnessed a sharp increase in ivory poaching. A conservation group called Elephants Without Borders discovered 87 elephant carcasses stripped of their tusks in a protected wildlife sanctuary in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The conservation group conducts an elephant count for the Botswana government every four years. The last census, conducted in 2014, found nine elephant carcasses. This year’s survey, which is only halfway complete, has already found an alarming 87!
Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants in Africa. Approximately 130,000 elephants live in what is supposed to be their last sanctuary in Africa. Poaching activities have wiped out herds across Zambia, Angola and the rest of the continent.
What is poaching? It is a deadly crime against animal wildlife. Often wild animals are hunted as a sport or hobby but also for their fur or body parts, which are then bought and sold as trophies. Examples of this are rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks both of which are desired for ornamental as well as medicinal purposes
But this alarming report suggests that Botswana citizens are becoming more involved in poaching activities.
What has changed?
Botswana implemented a hunting ban in 2014. Local communities were not happy about this because hunting generates a lot of jobs and money.
What does that mean? People spend on their flights, the taxi or air transfers to the camps, on their accommodation, and on food and drink. It also costs money to get the right guides and professional hunters to help them with the species they are hunting. There are also permits required, trackers, skinners, and taxidermists to help to take care of the kill. Once the trophies have been collected, the carcasses are donated or sold at a cheap rate to communities since the trophy hunters cannot transport the meat. A hunting ban meant that suddenly all these sources of income were reduced. So perhaps people started hunting under the radar.
In addition, Botswana followed a strict policy where park-rangers could shoot to kill suspected poachers, including Namibians and Zimbabweans who illegally crossed the border. Recently a change in government has disarmed rangers, tempting poachers to increase their hunting activities.
Who buys ivory? Ivory is the material you get from the tusks of elephants. The highest demand for it in the world comes from Asia where people use it in traditional medicines and also consider it a mark of wealth. Even though China has banned ivory trade, Hong Kong and Japan still remain major destinations for ivory.
Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks today issued a statement saying the Elephants Without Borders claims are “false and misleading.” They are looking into the report.