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Conservationists: Dozens of elephants killed in Botswana ‘poaching frenzy’
Dozens of elephant corpses were reportedly discovered in Botswana in what some conservationists are describing as one of the biggest slaughters in recent years.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the tusks of 87 animals were found during the last few months while a charity, Elephants Without Borders, conducted aerial surveys in the region. The newspaper noted that the tusks had been chopped off.
"[This is] indicative of a poaching frenzy which has been ongoing in the same area for a long time," Michael Chase, director of Elephants Without Borders, wrote in a report after counting 48 tusks in a single survey in August, according to the Times.
Tom Milliken, a program manager at Traffic, a nonprofit group that monitors wildlife smuggling, told the newspaper that a major escalation in elephant poaching has occurred.
Botswana has one the world's largest elephant populations, with more than a third of Africa's elephant population residing in the country, according to the Great Elephant Census.
The country also has one of the best wildlife records on the continent, the newspaper noted.
That record is in part because of policies that enforced militarized patrols in protected areas as well as a shoot-to-kill policy used to attempt to deter poachers. Yet those policies did not take action on the illegal ivory trade, according to the Times.
"Rural communities are likely to support poachers and poaching economies because there are no benefits to these conservation areas for them," Annette Hübschle, a researcher at the Center of Criminology at the University of Cape Town, told the newspaper.
The Times also noted that Botswana's new government after gaining power in April demilitarized the anti-poaching unit. The Botswana government called the findings from Elephants Without Borders "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 ministry of environment said in a statement, the Times reported.
Elephants Without Borders has said that the poaching did not take place in just one incident.