“It is only elephants that are dying and nothing else,” Dr McCann said. “If it was cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see other deaths.”
Dr McCann has also tentatively ruled out natural anthrax poisoning, which killed at least 100 elephants in Bostwana last year.
But they have been unable to rule out either poisoning or disease. The way the animals appear to be dying – many dropping on their faces – and sightings of other elephants walking in circles points to something potentially attacking their neurological systems, Dr McCann said.
Either way, without knowing the source, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of a disease crossing into the human population – especially if the cause is in either the water sources or the soil. Dr McCann points to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have started in animals.
“Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis,” he said.
Gaborone – Rhino poaching has become rampant in Botswana as six endangered
black and white rhinos were killed by poachers in the Okavango Delta in a
short period of less than two months between October and November.
According to the latest information reaching The Southern Times, the
Southern African nation poaching epidemic has escalated as the latest
figures have surged from nine in April to 15 rhinos killed this year.
This was confirmed by the rhino coordinator at the Department of Wildlife,
Dr Mmadi Reuben. “Since the last time we issued a statement in October about
the increasing number of rhinos killed by suspected poachers, we have
recorded at least six incidents of rhino poaching which brings the number of
rhinos killed since April from nine to 15,” he said.
He said they were monitoring rhino movements through darting and tagging
“If we were not monitoring their movements, we would not have known about
these incidents,” he said.
He said going forward, there was a need to adopt a solution that was
Reuben said there was a need to sensitise communities living along the delta
so that they could report suspicious people in their localities to law
“We also have to intensify monitoring of these animals so that they are all
accounted for,” he said. He said in the past, Botswana did not have large
numbers of rhinos and following relocation of rhinos from her neighbours,
this could have triggered a surge in poaching of the endangered species.
“The private partnership that we have also needs to be intensified. The
value these animals have in diversifying the economy cannot be
underestimated. Those who have these species should ensure that they are
protected and not decimated,” he said.
Reports indicate that poaching is escalating in the region, driven by demand
for rhino horn in Asian countries, and authorities are overwhelmed.
Botswana is home to just under 400 rhinos, according to Rhino Conservation
Botswana, most of which roam the grassy plains of the northern Okavango
In collaboration with government, Rhinos Without Borders and Wilderness
Safaris, Rhino Conservation Botswana recently completed a large operation to
dart and tag previously untagged wild rhinos in the Okavango Delta.
The team darted rhinos and fitted each rhino with a tracking device, taking
body measurements and a DNA sample, as well as clipping ear notches onto the
rhinos ears which serve as easy to identify unique identification marks.
Last month, the Ministry of Tourism raised alarm that a rhino was killed on
2 October, following a recorded poaching incident on 27 September in the
core rhino range in the Okavango Delta.
According to a statement issued by the ministry, the poaching incident at
the time brought the number of rhinoceros poached this financial year alone
from 1 April 2019 up to now to nine, an unprecedented number.
The ministry expressed concern that the increased poaching of rhinos was
deeply worrying in a country that has over the last few years received
rhinos in an effort to safeguard and revive rhino populations.
“Botswana does not have many wild rhinos, our population is relatively
small,” said Reuben at the time.
“We have been losing about a rhino a month to poaching; losing two in one
week is unacceptable. If the poaching continues at this rate there will be
no rhinos in Botswana in a year or two, especially the black rhino, a
critically endangered species.”
The ministry said this would be a huge loss for the country with a strict
and strong anti-poaching policy, which the government had committed immense
Botswana government to sell rights to shoot 158 elephants
Country has courted controversy by lifting hunting ban in May
is reintroducing elephant hunts and is likely to sell licenses to kill the animals at a discount to its neighbors. That could further inflame the controversy that’s threatening a $2 billion tourism industry after a five-year ban on hunting was lifted.
The government will auction licenses to hunting operators for the right to shoot an elephant but is yet to decide on the minimum price it will set, said Kitso Mokaila, the country’s environment minister. Botswana will allow the killing of 158 elephants in trophy hunts this year.
An additional administrative fee of 20,000 pula ($1,834) for each of 72 elephant hunting licenses designated for foreigners has already been agreed on, according to government documents seen by Bloomberg. In neighboring Zimbabwe, the right to shoot an elephant costs at least $21,000.
Conservationists worldwide have opposed the plan, warning that tourists may go elsewhere.
“It’s a very reasonable price,” said Dries van Coller, president of the Professional Hunters Association in South Africa. “They would rather proceed with caution, and see how it goes.”
President Mokgweetsi Masisi put elephants at the center of the Botswana’s politics ahead of October elections, breaking ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama, who imposed the hunting ban and garnered international praise for Botswana’s wildlife policies.
Still, by lifting the hunting ban earlier this year, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbors. The number of hunting licenses are below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia. In South Africa, foreign hunters generated 1.95 billion rand ($133 million) in 2017.
Less than 50 elephants are shot in South Africa annually and Zambia has allocated 37 licenses for this year.
The all-in cost of an elephant hunt typically involves several hundred dollars a day for the professional hunters who accompany the tourists, as well as accommodation and taxidermy fees. Hunts can last 10 to 18 days on average. Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the U.S.
“We want to start off cautiously and steadily to see if all that we want under the guidelines can be done properly,” Mokaila said. The sales will start soon, he added.
Tourism, mainly in the form of photographic safaris around the country’s Okavango and Chobe reasons, accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.
MANILA (UPDATED) — Photos of former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson with a lion he shot dead during a hunting expedition in South Africa are drawing flak online.
The photos, which were initially published in June on the website of the Philippine Times of Southern Nevada, show Singson posing beside a male lion and an antelope that he shot at the Kalahari Desert as he celebrated his birthday.
A screenshot of the Philippine Times of Southern Nevada online newspaper featuring Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson’s safari tour.
According to the report, Singson went to the Kalahari Desert, which extends 900,000 square kilometers and covers much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa, to hunt wild animals.
Singson, like all other hunters, waited for about a year to get his shooting license, it said.
“His hunting rifle took down a male lion and an antelope, highly valued targets. Needless to say, he couldn’t be happier. His feats were celebrated in his birthday bash in Spear Safari, also in the savannah. An image of his prized catch is printed onto his cake, making the celebration go down in history as one of the most memorable,” the report said.
On micro-blogging site Twitter, some netizens reacted negatively to the photos.
Meanwhile, an online petition at Change.org is asking Singson and his family to stop hunting wild ducks.
The petition, which has so far garnered over 600 signatures, started after photos of Singson and his daughter, Richelle, hunting wild ducks in Ilocos Sur went viral online early this month.
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said the Singsons have “shown a blatant disregard for our country’s wildlife laws and the welfare of our wildlife by advocating the hunting of protected species and posting photos of their father-daughter hunting spree on Facebook and Instagram.”
“We ask former Gov. Chavit Singson and his daughter Richelle Singson to stop promoting, advocating, and practicing hunting of Philippine wildlife. We hope they will instead promote the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat,” the group said.
ABS-CBN News Channel tried to contact the former governor to get his reaction but he has not been answering the calls.
A young bull elephant is seen in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
GABORONE (Reuters) – Botswana, home to almost a third of Africa’s elephants, lifted a ban on big game hunting on Wednesday, citing growing conflict between humans and wildlife and the negative impact of the hunting suspension on people’s livelihoods.
Conservationists estimate the southern African country has around 130,000 elephants, but some lawmakers say the number is much higher and causes problems for small-scale farmers.
“The Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry would like to reiterate that it will work with all stakeholders to ensure that re-instatement of hunting is done in an orderly and ethical manner”.
It said the return of wildlife hunting would take place in accordance with laws and regulations governing wildlife conservation, hunting and licensing, but did not elaborate. Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Onkokame Kitso Mokaila would hold a news conference on Thursday to give details, it said.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi set up a committee in June last year to consider the hunting ban, which was imposed by former President Ian Khama in 2014 after surveys showed declining wildlife populations.
The committee recommended in February that Botswana consider allowing big game hunting again.
At the time, the committee chair said it recommended “a legal framework that will enable the growth of a safari hunting industry and manage the country’s elephant population within the historic range”. The committee also called for “regular but limited” elephant culling.
Botswana, a mostly arid country the size of France, has a population of around 2.3 million people and its vast tracts of remote wilderness make it a magnet for foreign tourists who want to view wildlife.
recipient: President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi
Talk about bad ideas! The Botswana government has announced a plan to allow the hunting and killing of elephants and use their meat to make dog food.
You read that correctly. Knowing that the elephant is on the brink of extinction, the Southern African nation has decided to do something absolutely crazy, repeal the ban on trophy hunting. Elephant carcasses would then be harvested for pet food!
Home to one-third of all African elephants, Botswana was once considered one of the last bastions of safety for the imperiled animal. But all that has recently changed. The country — which has 130,000 elephants, the most of any nation — has experienced an alarming spate of elephant poachings. In the past 4 years, poaching has increased by 540%. And from July to September of 2018, 90 elephants were poached — compare that to 14 killed in the same amount of time in 2014.
Yet, instead of creating policies that would better protect the elephant, they are doing the opposite and making it easier to kill them.
Botswana says there have been too many interactions between people and elephants in recent years. But that is no excuse to give the green light to elephant trophy hunting. There are other ways to mitigate human-elephant interactions without having to kill them. And to turn them into dog food is just shameful.
Please sign the petition and tell Botswana you are against their new plan to turn Dumbo into Dog Chow. Tell them to ditch this terrible plan.
Botswana is moving towards culling elephants by lifting its wildlife hunting ban after a group of the country’s ministers endorsed the idea, but the proposal has drawn heavy criticism. Botswana’ is planning to cull elephants and sell them as pet food wins ministerial approval.
The southern African country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi had previously tasked a government subcommittee with reviewing the hunting ban – which had been put in place by his predecessor Ian Khama in 2014.
The committee decided to recommend lifting the ban last Thursday, and the country’s minister of local government and rural development Frans Solomon van der Westhuizen advocated ‘regular but limited elephant culling’, NPR reports.
Elephant meat canning – including for pet food production purposes – was also recommended by some.
Konstantinos Markus, a Member of Parliament who spearheaded efforts to eliminate the ban, argued that the ‘expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities.’
According to reports Markus said rural citizens of Botswana have grown hostile toward elephants, especially in the north where he said the animals have cut maize yields by nearly three-quarters.
Botswana is reportedly home to 130,000 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census, but concern has been rising regarding the ‘growing conflict between humans and wildlife’.
The country’s Government has also said pinpoiting the precise elephant population is difficult partly because herds can roam across borders into other countries.
Botswana’s consideration of lifting the ban has drawn heavy criticism.
The Telegraph reported that an elephant conservationist who works with the country’s government called the proposed cull ‘short sighted’.
The conservationist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the paper: ‘Botswana does have too many elephants, and there is huge elephant human conflict.
‘But this is not economically viable and it doesn’t take into account the reputational damage to the country. Better exploitation of sustainable tourism is a far better model.’
Online campaign group Elephants DC, which advances anti-poaching and anti-smuggling policies and has 35,000 Facebook folloewers, said: Botswana in the news for all the wrong reasons.
America should help NOW defend future impending poaching slaughters of the elephants. This nation is largest last haven of African elephants, many now whom are refugees after fleeing conflict elsewhere, in the world.’
One Twitter user said: ‘DEVASTATED to hear that @OfficialMasisi is considering lifting the ban on hunting elephants. It has even been proposed that the slaughtered elephants be made into ‘pet food’.
‘Please let Masisi know that if this is authorised, tourism to Botswana will dramatically decrease.’
Regarding the idea that the African democracy could be set to cull the animals, one Twitter user said: ‘Conservationists around the world must join forces to ensure that this ludicrous idea never happens.
Elephants are the most majestic of creatures. Thousands have been slaughtered for their ivory, now this shocking development. Elephants will become extinct.’
Another said: ‘Guys gonna pls stop the savagery against the elephants… everybody likes elephants – they connect us into the history of life itself. The Queen and Prince Philip like to feed them bananas too. Cheers.’
But one social media user took a different approach, saying: ‘Do you know the struggle of someone in Shakawe who’s has to face this animals every other day? Have you ever had you crops completely erased by elephants. What really is your mandate?’
Last year, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Oddie, Peter Egan, and a cross-party group of MPs rallied against proposals to lift the ban, claiming that allowing hunting could force the species to the point of extinction.
When the 2014 ban was imposed, the government had said it was moved to act after indications of ‘several species in the country’ showing declines.
The ban permitted hunting in registered and private game ranches. Some have argued that the rules may have been a detriment to the animals and people alike.
NPR reports that a spokesperson for conservationist non-profit organisation Elephants Without Borders said: ‘Some people are worried that elephants have recovered in greater numbers than the environment can sustain, and there is significant concern over increasing human-elephant conflict.
‘During the past 20 years the elephant range in Botswana has expanded by 53%, causing increasing concern about the impact of elephants on biodiversity, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living within the elephant range.’
Botswana’s Government published a statement on Twitter outlining how it had not taken a decision regarding the committee’s recommendations.
It read: ‘The Government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public that no decision has been taken with respect to the recommendations contained in the Sub Committee of Cabinet Report on the hunting ban that was presented to His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana recently by the chairperson of the said sub-committee.
‘As members of the public may recall, the moratorium on hunting was introduced in 2014 by Government and it was not meant to be a permanent decision. It is against this background that in June 2018, Government decided to consult with key stakeholders on the hunting ban in view of the increased human/wildlife conflict.
‘In this regard, a Cabinet Sub Committee on the Hunting Ban was established to conduct a nationwide consultative process that covered, holding kgotla meetings, consulting with individuals, local authorities, researchers and other key stakeholders.
‘Members of the public are reminded that consultation/therisanyo is the bedrock of out democratic dispensation as a nation. The long-standing peace, democracy and good governance experience that Botswana is often cited for, promotes social cohesion, unity in various communities, freedom of expression and equality before the law.
‘Therefore Government wishes to assure members of the public that it will uphold this principle and continue to engage with other important stakeholders before a decision regarding the recommendations is made.’
The statement was attributed to Carter N. Morupisi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet.
Botswana, which is roughly the size of France, has a population of around 2.3 million people and contains vast tracts of remote wilderness that make it a magnet for foreign tourists who want to view wildlife.
International tourism could generate £160m for Botswana this year, rising to £280m by 2021 – more than trophy hunters spend across the whole of southern Africa.
One of the last elephant sanctuaries in Africa has “a significant elephant-poaching problem”, according to the final results of an aerial wildlife survey in Botswana seen by the BBC.
Elephants Without Borders, which conducted the four-yearly survey with the government, said there was a six-fold increase in the number of “fresh” or “recent” elephant carcasses in northern Botswana amid “obvious signs” of poaching.
He told the BBC at the time that while flying over northern Botswana, he had discovered 87 recently killed elephants in one “hotspot” area – a number now revised to 88 – and 128 overall.
The government called his figures “false and misleading” and criticised “unsubstantiated and sensational media reports”.
He received death threats and has since had one of his two research licences suspended by the government.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the time described the allegations as the “biggest hoax of the 21st Century” and denied there had been a spike in poaching in the country.
But the final report identifies four poaching hotspots, provides photographic evidence from ground surveys and has been peer-reviewed by nine international elephant experts.
“The response from… various people was to try and deny or whitewash – label me a traitor and a liar – without having actually verified the evidence we bore witness to,” said Mr Chase.
The government didn’t respond to the BBC’s request for an interview about the final report, but issued a statement criticising the methods used in carrying out the survey.
The statement from Thato Raphaka, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, said it was “regrettable” the report showed an “astonishing number of pictures of dead elephants”.
It was critical of some of the scientific details in the report and requested the raw data to be submitted to the elephant specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature for further independent review.
Otisitwe Tiroyamodimo, the director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, said the government acknowledged there was a poaching problem.
“Nobody can deny that elephants are being killed in Botswana,” but those reported by Mr Chase had mainly died “from natural causes and retaliatory killings.”
“We went there and we couldn’t find the 87 carcasses,” said Mr Tiroyamodimo.
The authorities flew with Mr Chase but admit they spent only two days trying to verify carcasses seen over two months.
The BBC was given permission by the government to have access to the coordinates of one of the four areas identified as a “poaching hotspot” by the research team, and we visited the sites of 67 elephant carcasses.
A few had apparently died of natural causes, but most had the characteristics associated with being poached: tusks were missing and branches had been used to cover the bodies to prevent them being found.
But Botswana is home to 130,000 elephants – a third of the total number in Africa – and it is an obvious target for poachers.
Even when extrapolating poaching figures from the sample found in the survey, the numbers killed will not have a major impact on such a large population.
“If we are talking about a number of carcasses that have accumulated over a period of two years, given the population of elephants in Botswana it doesn’t really raise eyebrows,” said national parks director Mr Tiroyamodimo.
This was not satisfactory for Mr Chase.
“At what point do we say we have a problem?” he asked.
“Is it at 10? 50? 100? 150? 1,000? Lessons have taught us – when we look at Tanzania that lost 60% of its elephant population in five years – that’s how quickly poaching can settle into a population.
“We saw with our own eyes 157 confirmed poached elephants. We estimate that the total poached in the last year is at least 385 and probably far more because that is based on what we actually saw and have not had time or finances to visit all carcasses on the ground.”
But the storm over the reported spike in poaching appears to have more to do with Botswana’s bitter and complicated new politics than its wildlife.
President Masisi was vice-president until April 2018, when then-President Ian Khama handed power over to his deputy.
Since then the two men have fallen out.
The new president has his own vision on a number of issues, among them conservation, and has reversed some of the previous policies.
Hunting was banned under President Khama and Botswana was known for a zero-tolerance approach to poachers.
It was reported that in 2015 alone 30 Namibians, 22 Zimbabweans and an unknown number of Zambians were shot on suspicion of poaching.
Humans v elephants
Elephants can be very destructive when they encroach on to farmland and move though villages – destroying crops and sometimes killing people. Many rural communities believe the number of elephants is increasing, even though there is no evidence of this from scientific surveys.
But their “range” – how far the elephants travel – is expanding for a number of different reasons and that is increasing conflict between wildlife and humans. Many people believe this worsened after hunting was banned in 2013, and want it to be re-introduced.
The government has to balance lifting the hunting ban to win votes against the impact it may have on Botswana’s international reputation as a luxury safari destination.
Botswana is also now backing regional efforts to lift a ban on the ivory trade.
The two men are locked in a political feud ahead of a party congress which will choose a new leader, with national elections due later in the year.
Mr Chase has a close relationship with the former president, so the timing of his allegations has been seen by some as a political attack on the new president – even if the final report provides evidence that poaching was going on before Mr Masisi took office.
Botswana attracts high-end tourists from across the world because of its international reputation for successful conservation.
But with the continuing political storm – and a dependency on government permits to run high-end safaris – few of the big safari operators would comment on how big a problem poaching has become.
‘Don’t shoot the messenger’
Thirteen rhinos have been killed by poachers in the last 12 months – an unprecedented number.
David Kays, who owns Ngamiland Adventure Safaris in the Okavango Delta, said it was time to admit there was a poaching problem and work together to deal with it.
“I think the government has been hiding it for a while, and now that it’s been brought out into the open, we’re now realising how serious the problem is, and these big poachers have actually infiltrated further than we expected them to be.”
Wilderness Safaris operates luxury lodges in one of the concessions where some of the 88 carcasses were found.
Its chief executive Kim Nixon rejected any suggestion there was a denial of the problem.
“Whenever poaching has occurred in any of our concession areas, each and every incident has been reported as a criminal case,” he said.
“We’re not in any way mandated or allowed to do any anti-poaching – our role at best is monitoring.”
Mr Chase says “don’t shoot the messenger” adding: “I think it requires all stakeholders working together – government, private, public sectors, the NGOs.”
Botswana is still the safest place in the world to be a rhino or an elephant, but with a continuing demand for ivory in Asia, it is now firmly in the poachers’ sights.