87 Elephants Killed By Poachers in Botswana

Poaching elephants for their ivory tusks has increasingly become an issue in Botswana. Poaching is described to a "crisis" in many African countries, however, until recently, Botswana seemed to be able to protect its population of 13,000 elephants. For many years, Botswana had an anti-poaching unit, before their current president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, dismantled them after being sworn in this past May. 

In the recent census, it was found that 87 elephants have died thus far, without the census even being complete. The Botswana government responded that this number is inaccurate, however, Mike Chase, the director of Elephants Without Borders, who conducted the initial areal survey for carcasses, said he was disappointed the government responded this way. He stands by his numbers, saying that each elephant is GPS tracked, and shows clear evidence of the increase in poaching.

While the legality of arming anti-poaching rangers has been debated, leaving them with no weapons to essentially fight highly strategized rings of organized criminals seems unfair in Chase’s eyes. The “shoot-to-kill” policy was an unwritten one in Botswana for many years, which seemed to stop poaching, but lead to the killings of poachers themselves. The dismantling of these armed ranger groups seemed to spark an increase in poaching in Botswana.

However, the disarming of rangers isn’t the only reason for the increase of violence. Both organized criminals and community members are engaging in the hunting of elephats. This can be attributed to the demand for ivory, or the lack of tourism money, where poaching makes up the difference. Furthermore, on a community level, with changing climates, hunting game meat has become more scarce, and elephants, amoung other previously uncommon animals have been targeted.

How large is the demand for ivory? While international ivory trade was banned in the 1990’s, it remained legal in China until 2017, and still is legal domestically in Hong Kong and Japan. IN many parts of East Asia, ivory is seen as a material of the elite, making it very popular on the black market. It is still very popular illegally in China and the US.

Elephant conservation is essential when thinking about the sustainability of the planet long term. It is import to protect the habitats of elephants as well as their lives. To learn more about elephant conservation and what you can do to help, click here.

Mason Twins