“The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I have seen or read about in Africa to date,” says Mike Chase, director of the conservationist group Elephants Without Borders.
It’s not as if we’ve needed any more proof of the existential threat that mass poaching is posing to Africa’s beleaguered wild elephants. But here comes some more anyhow in the form of yet another outrage.
Over the past week weeks as many as 90 elephant carcasses, mostly large bulls, have been discovered in Botswana thanks to aerial surveys conducted by conservationists and local wildlife officials. The pachyderms were shot with hunting rifles near watering spots near a wildlife sanctuary and had their tusks chopped off with axes, indicating they fell victim to ivory poachers.
“We started flying the survey on 10 July, and we have counted 90 elephant carcasses since the survey commenced. Each day we are counting dead elephants,” Mike Chase, director of the conservationist group Elephants Without Borders, was quoted as saying. “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I have seen or read about in Africa to date.”
Making matters worse has been the fact that Botswana, which has a zero tolerance policy to elephant poaching, has reportedly been scaling down some of its antipoaching efforts. Elephants in Zambia and Angola, Chase said, “have been poached to the verge of local extinction, and poachers have now turned to Botswana.”
Time is running out for Africa’s wild herds, which have seen their numbers drop precipitously in recent years. Despite stepped-up protection measures, global wildlife smuggling syndicates continue to target wild elephants in Africa for their tusks. Most of the illicit ivory is destined for China, which has recently decided to enact a ban on the sale of ivory but has yet to stamp out the thriving illegal trade in animal parts across the country.
The international trade in illegally trafficked ivory is worth billions of dollars annually and entails the slaughter of an estimated 30,000 elephants each year. Over the past decade some 140,000 elephants have been killed for their tusks and other body parts in Africa, driving the species precariously close to being critically endangered. While there were 490,000 elephants on the continent a decade ago, there are now only around 350,000.
“The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains,” the World Wide Fund for Nature, which recently released an online video about the ivory trade in Africa, warns on its website.