Controversial Director of Elephants Without Borders Dr Mike Chase claims there are people out there threatening to kill him.
He alleges to have received death threats stemming from allegations he peddled in the international media to the effect that elephant poaching in Botswana was spiralling out of control.
Chase nevertheless says he has not reported the death threat to the police because they were made by an unidentified person.
“Yes, it is correct that I have received death threats. The death threats were made by an anonymous person and as a result, no action could be taken against this unknown person,” he said.
He explained that he does “not have issues with the Government of Botswana.”
“What has, however, happened is that public discussion about my concern for elephant poaching has become focused on secondary issues (political, donor, policy and contractual) instead of addressing my call to support a potentially serious problem.,” he said.
Chase added:“This is regrettable, because my purpose in reporting the incidence of poaching to the Government of Botswana and subsequently Batswana journalists was to inform them of the criminal activity.”
Asked if he thinks he should be held responsible should the reports about poaching have a negative impact on the country, Chase said:“Whilst undertaking the aerial survey, I invited two Batswana journalists to join me in the field as observers. “
He said the journalists subsequently wrote articles in “our national newspapers regarding the elephant poaching situation, and the topic of these articles appears to have been taken up by the international press.”
“I therefore repeat that it was not me who wrote or aired the story which has caused the controversy. In response to the original BBC article highlighting poaching reports, in October 2018, the BBC were invited back to Botswana by the Government of Botswana , to film and report on any evidence of alleged elephant poaching.,” he said.
Chase said “On the 8 January 2019, with full press accreditation from the Office of the President, the BBC came to film their story, which is now being aired. Ultimately Botswana will be judged not for the fact that poaching has increased in the country, but on how it deals with the problem.”
Asked what evidence he discovered which showed that the elephant carcasses found died as a result of poaching and that they did not die from natural causes, Chase said :“We are certainly aware that not all of the 1677 observed carcasses from the survey were poached, and we are certainly not saying that.”
He said “We documented a significant number of elephants that died of natural causes or from human-wildlife conflict. We did not document these as poached if there were no obvious signs of poaching. We strictly assessed carcasses with observed evidence of poaching.”
But during the 2018 aerial survey, Chase said, they spotted a surprisingly high number of recently killed elephant carcasses that showed obvious signs of poaching.
“The majority of these were seen in very remote areas far from human activity. To confirm that poaching was the cause of this recent mortality considerable effort was made using helicopters and ground trotting on foot to examine 151 carcasses,” he said.
According to Chase, “We confirmed 135 (89%) of these examined carcasses were poached. The team took pains to record noticeable poaching signs such as missing tusks, carcasses being covered with cut bushes in an attempt to conceal the dead animals, skulls having been chopped in half to remove the tusks, or several carcasses clustered close to each other far from human activity.”
He said several fresh carcasses had deep wounds in their back where poachers had evidently tried to paralyze a wounded 6 individual by hacking through the backbone and severing the spinal cord.
“All poached elephants were bulls, aged between 35 ÔÇô 55, likely targeted for their large tusks. This is the largest poaching outbreak recorded since the 1970s in Botswana,” he claimed.