Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Armed wildlife gangs run wild in Chobe national Park

Zambian armed poachers who are believed to be handled by organized, transnational criminal syndicates are feared to have cornered Botswana’s Chobe National Park in the north.

This comes after the spokesperson for the ministry of environment and tourism, Lesego Kgomanyane, confirmed in December 2023 that Botswana experienced an increase in elephant poaching incidences between November and December 2023.

A recent report by renowned journalist Peta Thornycroft in The Daily Telegraph states that: “Poachers are thought to have killed at least 60 elephants in the past three months in the north of the country and in Chobe National Park, one of the world’s top wildlife destinations.”

She adds that: “Scores of elephants have been killed for their ivory in Botswana in recent months as the southern African country once considered a sanctuary for wildlife has seen a surge in poaching.”

The report which appears in The Daily Telegraph — a British daily conservative newspaper published in London — also claims that the poaching is carried out by well-organised wildlife syndicates from Zambia. “The tusks are being trafficked out of the country by well-organised, well-armed and sophisticated gangs of Zambians operating for syndicates in and around the capital, Lusaka. Tusks are cut into small pieces in Zambia, before being packaged and transited through other parts of Africa and then sent to Asia,” she says.

According to earlier assertions made by the ministry of the environment, a significant portion of the elephant tusks that are smuggled into Namibia originate in Botswana. There are also assertions that the Zambezi Region of Namibia is being used as a transit route for the smuggling of elephant tusks that have been poached from Botswana to Zambia.

Although Namibia and Botswana jointly declared a collaborative inquiry into elephant poaching approximately three months ago, Botswana’s worsening poaching situation has caused unease for some neighbouring countries as it leaves them exposed and effectively makes them sitting ducks.

Nonetheless, other experts on wildlife conservation advise exercising caution, pointing out that a high number of elephant carcasses does not always indicate poaching but rather could be the result of elephants dying from natural causes.

The largest elephant herd in the world is found in Botswana, according to survey data from the first-ever coordinated aerial elephant survey conducted in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). The KAZA TFCA is composed of Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“The 2022 dry season survey estimated there to be 227900 (±16743) elephants in the KAZA TFCA survey…Across the KAZA TFCA, 58% of the elephants were found to be in Botswana, 29% in Zimbabwe, 9% in Namibia, and the remaining 4% were found in Zambia and Angola combined,” states the survey.

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