Botswana Government has once again reiterated its position that their invitation to a wildlife and environmental expert Mike Chase to come forward and show the carcasses of 87 elephants he is said to have seen still stands.
International cable news channels had recently attributed to Dr Chase news items alleging that poaching in the vicinity of both the Chobe and Okavango had recently gone wild.
The Botswana Defence Force head of anti-poaching, Brigadier Simon Barwabatsile told the media that they have literally combed all of the said areas but found no evidence of such escalated poaching nor such elephant carcasses as alleged.
“We have no cemeteries for dead elephants. It takes a very long time for dead elephants to completely disappear. Some of the carcasses being talked about were killed a long time back,” he said.
Barwabatsile is also National Coordinator of all agencies involved in wildlife anti-poaching effort.
He said that after calling Dr Chase of Elephant Without Borders (EWB) to come and help them by pinpointing the said killed elephants it was established that many of carcasses were not new.
Additionally some of the carcasses were of elephants that had died naturally.
“We have not seen any evidence of exponential rise in poaching. If anything poaching has remained constant,” said the Brigadier.
He added that the regions of Linyanti and Kwando, both of them areas under the BDF anti-poaching command have been the most affected by poaching ÔÇô but by no measure near the alleged extent.
“The fact of the matter is that there is poaching taking place in Botswana. It never stopped at any given time. Elephants also die from disease, old age or in some instances thirst. Since the beginning of the year to date, we have counted 63 incidents of elephant poached ÔÇô for the whole of Botswana,” he said.
Compared to other previous years, this was below annual average, said Barwabatsile.
The deputy Director of Wildlife Department Churchill Collyer said all evidence on the ground points to the fact that poaching has remained pretty constant.
“Yes there is poaching but certainly not to the extent alleged,” he said.
While Botswana government communications unit in the Office of the President had said they had made attempts to convince Dr Chase to attend the media tour and briefing in Kasane, he has since released a statement on his website refuting that. He says he was not aware of the media briefing.
“Dr Chase was not extended an invitation to the recent Government of Botswana press briefing held in Kasane on the 19t September pertaining to a fact finding mission about alleged elephant poaching,” says a statement posted on EWB website.
“EWB is not able, until further notice, to release detailed information concerning the survey in general, nor potential cases of elephant poaching. We trust that concerned citizens of Botswana, the media and the international conservation community can respect these constraints and await the dissemination of the final survey report,” the statement from EWB added.