AWF Calls for International Support to Combat Elephant Poaching Crisis
According to the Great Elephant Census, Botswana holds 37% of Africa’s endangered elephant population, making it home to the largest population in the world. Despite the lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe. With only 130,000 elephants, Botswana has been described as their last sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.
The dry season aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana (covering Chobe, Okavango, Ngamiland and North Central District) has already identified 87 elephants that have been killed in just a few months. The elephant carcasses were found near the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, the majority of which died in recent weeks. Contrary to what local and international media has reported on the matter, the Permanent Secretary Thato Y. Raphaka, in a statement released early this week, said that, “At no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana. These statistics however represent cumulative incidences of elephant carcasses during the conduct of the survey as early as July through August.” The survey is expected to end by 30th September 2018 and conservationists fear the final findings of the elephants will be a lot higher.
An ivory demand is fueling the poaching of elephants, and it’s often carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines and trinkets that can be sold for thousands of dollars on the black market. As many as 35,000 African elephants are killed each year, and census estimates reveal that a third of Africa's elephants have been killed in the last decade alone. 60% of Tanzania's elephants have been lost in five years.
AWF’s Vice President for Species Protection Dr. Philip Muruthi said this was devastating news for conservation and emphasized the need to assist range states to conserve elephants.
“We are still in a poaching crisis and it is not time to relax. Each range state and partners must remain vigilant. Poachers and traffickers are monitoring law enforcement, and any relaxation in effort exposes elephants to poachers. It’s important to be proactive even as we react to the threat of poaching. Botswana is known for strict law enforcement of wildlife protection, high level of support, and involvement of communities and the private sector, and we need to support their efforts.” said Dr. Muruthi.
Wildlife trafficking unfortunately keeps the poaching industry alive, and so AWF’s Canines for Conservation program combats this demand by deploying detection dogs and their handlers to key airports and seaports throughout the continent. The sniffer dogs can detect even the smallest amounts of wildlife contraband—like ivory or rhino horn dust—stopping traffickers before they can export the illegal products abroad. So far, there are canine units strategically located in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and soon to be deployed to Botswana this year.
In a phone interview with AfricaNews about combating wildlife poaching, Dr. Philip Muruthi talks about our Canines for Conservation program.