Sunday Standard (Botswana)

OP QUESTIONS BBC OVER LEAKED REPORT

18 Jan 2019

By Calistus Bosaletswe

Controversial Elephant Without Borders (EWB) is believed to have leaked a report on elephants counts to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) a week after the report was submitted to the government of Botswana.

The EWB which is not new to controversy last year received a backlash from the media (both local and international) as well as the government of Botswana after misrepresenting facts surrounding the deaths of elephants while doing a wildlife survey in the Okavango Delta.

The government of Botswana engaged the EWB for aerial survey which was aimed at counting wildlife species in the delta.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi had to spearhead a public relations exercise towards the non-governmental in particular its Director Mike Chase after the issue of elephants poaching caught the attention of the international community.

The government feared that the EWB director who is not a staunch supporter of trophy hunting was in a bid to voice out his frustration with government’s move to review the issue of trophy hunting.

The Telegraph has been informed that the EWB leaked the report to BBC after EWB completed the wildlife counting census a week after it was submitted to the government.

In an interview, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo indicated that upon the arrival of BBC crew which is undertaking a story relating to elephants in the delta the Office of the President enquired about the leaked report.

Tiroyamodimo indicated that officers from the Office of the President had made inquiry from the crew on whether they have received a report from Chase.

Tiroyamodimo says the BBC crew has denied being in possession of the report when the Office of the President asked them whether they were given a report which was submitted to the government last week.

Tiroyamodimo who accompanied the BBC crew in Okavango Delta this week also indicated that the British broadcaster has not even raised the issue with them while on assignment relating to poaching of elephants in the delta.

“I wouldn’t know if they have it but I can actually confirm that the report was availed to the government last week on Monday. It has not yet been shared with the public,” added Tiroyamodimo.

The Telegraph has been reliably informed that the EWB has shared the report with BBC a week after the report was submitted to the government.

The government of Botswana engineered a master stroke PR to quell a tirade from the international community who agreed with Chase’s assertion that the disarming of DWNP anti poaching unit prompted the upsurge  on elephant poaching in the Delta.

The government later disputed the alarming report arguing that some of the elephants that Chase alleged to have been poached died from natural deaths.

The government also displayed their displeasure over Chase’s alarming report stating that he was to include his findings in a report since he was engaged by tax payers’ money.

The brouhaha regarding the death of elephants suspected to have been poached took an ugly turn when the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation questioned then Environment and Wildlife Minister, Tshekedi Khama, the Botswana Tourism Organisation, Executive Manager Julian Blackbeard and EWB Director their interests in the non-governmental organisations that spearheaded a campaign geared towards a debate on the lifting of hunting ban.

Dow questioned Khama,Julian Blackbeard and Mike Chase and President Ian Khama’s links with Tlhokomela Botswana Endangered Wildlife Trust. The four are the board members of a multi-million pula trust that was set up as a vehicle towards getting funds from international donors to fund the cause of protecting the endangered species.

Dow indicated that the then Minister Khama,Blackbeard, Former President Ian Khama play a fussy role in Tlhokomela Trust . She said the role of the Tlhokomela as an NGO was to persuade the government to listen to their cause on protection of wildlife and conservation.

Dow was adamant that the same people who are holding positions in public office are Tlhokomela Trust Board members. Dow was concerned that Chase was also sitting in Tlhokomela Trust Board with influential individuals in the public.