Elephants Without Borders (EWB) Director Mike Chase may face possible law suit by the government of Botswana following his decision to share an unconfirmed report with the international media, breaching contractual agreements with his employer, Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism (MEWT).
Addressing a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sitting this past Friday Permanent Secretary at MEWT Thato Raphaka said the right to disseminate that kind of information lies with the Ministry and not the contractor, EWB.
He said they were still investigating the motive behind Chase’s rash behaviour with a view to hand the matter over to the Attorney Generals Chambers for possible litigation. “His actions amount to breach of contract,” Raphaka said.
The PS told PAC that Chase had failed to substantiate claims of the ‘87′ poached elephants that he alluded to in his controversial report that went viral this past week. Instead of the 87, Raphaka said, only seven elephant remains were spotted by the team of Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Department of Wildlife and National Parks, and other security organs that went to investigate.
“Our officers established that some of the carcasses that were discovered formed part of those that had already been recorded.”
Raphaka also addressed the issue of firearms in relation to Chase’s report which attributed the ‘high scale’ poaching to the disarmament of the government’s Anti-Poaching Unit.
“The Anti-Poaching Unit remains armed and operational around the country,” Raphaka said. “What has been withdrawn are the firearms that have hitherto, not been prescribed under the Wildlife and National Parks Act that include pistols and automatic weapons.”
He said those weapons prescribed by the Act remain in the hands of the Anti-Poaching Unit. The Ministry is however currently revisiting the specific piece of legislation to determine just what type of firearms can be recommended for use by the Wildlife department, the PS said.
“Poaching is a security issue which the Wildlife department had never had the capacity to handle on its own. That is why following the adoption of the Anti-Poaching Strategy the BDF and other organs were roped in to provide support.”
Following international news reports about the alleged poaching the Ministry released a statement informing members of the public and other key stakeholders that the statistics shared by Chase were false and misleading.
“At no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana. The Government of Botswana wishes to further inform that the survey conducted by EWB started on 5th July 2018 and is expected to end by 30th September 2018.” The statement says during the conduct of the survey from 5th July up to 1st August 2018, EWB reported that they had come across 53 elephant carcasses which were incidents that had already been cumulatively reported officially to the Government as early as July and August of this year.
Of the aforementioned 53 reported, MEWT said, a verification mission between July and August established that the majority were not poached but rather died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and wildlife conflicts.
“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,” Chase told BBC of the said poaching earlier this week. “When I compare this to figures and data from the Great Elephant Census, which I conducted in 2015, we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa.”