‘Poachers Kill 86 Elephants In 8 Months’

Date:

  • DWNP investigate reported surge in elephant poaching
  • EWB locates 86 poached elephant carcasses in the past 8 months
  • Warns this could indicate a wider problem with poaching
  • Writes to director with coordinates, images of carcasses

Elephants Without Borders (EWB) has further to its study on elephant poaching, once again alerted government to a surge in elephant poaching in the Northern Botswana which could be a wider problem.

Following its recent study which indicated that between October 2023 and February 2024, 56 poached elephant carcasses were found in northern Botswana, EWB has also early this month written a letter to DWNP alerting it to another ten freshly poached elephant carcasses in NG15 and NG18. The organisation said this now brings the total number of poached elephants seen in the past eight months to 86.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has since confirmed that following the report and the alerts, it is now investigating the alleged surge elephant poaching incidents in the northern part of Botswana as reported by Elephants Without Borders (EWB).

According to the letter, the 10 carcasses were seen in a well-known poaching hotspot which has been repeatedly targeted by poachers over the past eight months. EWB indicated that most of these carcasses were a few days old alerting that poachers may still be active in the area.

“The elephant carcasses showed the obvious signs of ivory poaching. Elephant skulls were chopped in half, a distinguishing characteristic of elephant carcasses typically killed by poachers to remove their tusks. Poaching gangs continue to frequently target and kill elephants in NG18 and NG15, in a pattern that is becoming sadly predictable,” read the letter addressed to DWNP acting director, Moemi Batshabang.

The organisation stated that the ten poached elephants are in addition to other suspicious carcasses seen recently in northern Botswana.

“Elephant poaching incidents were reported to you on, 15 October 2023 (n=16), 04 November 2023 (n=14), 11 December 2023 (n=10) and 14 January 2024 (n=8), 11 February 2024 (n=9) and 24 April 2024 (n=9).”

In its study, EWB revealed that the 56 poached elephant carcasses reported between October 2023 and February 2024 were found mainly in the west of Chobe National Park further suspecting that the cases could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile Ngamiland Regional Wildlife Coordinator, Dimakatso Ntshebe recently told this publication that they have seen and are still deliberating on the report. Ntshebe however indicated that there is no evidence to confirm nor deny the study hence they have launched their own investigations.

According to the report, authored by Dr. Scott Schlossberg and Dr. Michael Chase, many of these 56 carcasses were in an area that was previously identified as a poaching “hotspot” in 2018-2019. It indicated that the area monitored for poaching in 2023-2024 is a small fraction of the total elephant range in northern Botswana, therefore the carcasses found could indicate a wider problem with poaching.

According to EWB, the carcasses in NG18, found in 2024, were in an area where the organisation had not previously documented ivory poaching. These carcasses, it noted were all fresh or recent on the four-category scale as of the date originally found, between October 2023 and February 2024.

EWB therefore recommended that surveillance and anti-poaching patrols are needed along the Linyanti River (Batubaja), around the Katambora-Kazuma border area, and in NG13 (Omega III / Xhoromo). These it alerted are notorious crossing points for cross-border poaching syndicates, which require constant policing and interception before poachers kill elephants in Botswana.

As documented, EWB is convinced that poaching continues in northern Botswana highlighting that on the 2022 KAZA survey, an area with high numbers of fresh carcasses was found in CH1 and the Savuti section of Chobe NP as well as NG15, west of the park.  It says while Botswana’s government claimed that these carcasses were not poached, many of these fresh carcasses nonetheless, were in the same areas where they documented poached elephants in 2023 and 2024.

Furthermore, the report noted that one worrying sign with respect to poaching is that the price of ivory on the black market may be increasing again. According to it, black market ivory prices increased from 2000 through approximately 2015 noting that limited evidence suggested that ivory prices began to decrease thereafter. “Decreasing ivory prices should be positive for elephants as research has shown that higher ivory prices are associated with higher poaching rates.

“Recent intelligence gathered in Botswana, however, revealed the ivory prices have increased again to $135 USD kg-1, which is higher than most values reported prior to 2018 (M. Chase, personal communication with confidential source)” warning that rising ivory prices could be a warning sign for more poaching to come in KAZA.

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