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BDF was in charge of elephant ‘massacre’ area

BDF was in charge of elephant ‘massacre’ area

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) was in control of the Chobe area in which a disputed number of elephant carcasses were found recently, setting off global outrage on perceived rampant poaching in Botswana.

By

MBONGENI MGUNI

Fri 07 Sep 2018, 11:58 am (GMT +2)

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: Elephants PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

The NGO which reported the poaching, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), blamed the issue on President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision in May to withdraw military weapons from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ (DWNP) anti-poaching unit.

International media upped the ante by painting a picture suggesting rangers had stood by helplessly as poachers gunned down at least 87 elephants in the Okavango Delta. Government has said about 53 elephant carcasses have been spotted, the majority being natural deaths over several months this year.

This week, authoritative sources within the DWNP told Mmegi the area in question was solely under the BDF’s management. The Department’s anti-poaching rangers, the sources said, are actually operating further south in the Kgalagadi area tackling less militarised and sophisticated poaching.

“The DWNP is more active in the Kgalagadi area where the poaching is less intense and involves poaching of predators such as leopards and the like,” a senior official within the Department told Mmegi. He requested anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media. “The area where that

incident happened is under the sole control of the BDF, who are armed. The Directorate on Intelligence and Security are on one side and the BDF on the other and both are armed.

“We would not have been present there and so the issue of disarmament being a reason for the poaching does not arise,” the source said.

DWNP insiders also expressed doubt about the numbers reported by EWB, saying it was doubtful poachers would get away with killing 90 elephants without encountering the BDF or being fatally attacked by the elephants themselves, even over a large area. “An elephant’s behaviour is such that it would not stumble into a mass killing area; they move quickly away from poaching sites and are very aggressive when confronted.

“It’s practically impossible to even find 20 adult elephants together and think you could kill them all without fatalities on your side too.  “Thus, even with 53 carcasses, the deaths would have to be over a certain period of time and not all related to poaching.”

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