Elephant Poaching Mass Grave Discovered in Botswana

Elephants splash at sunset in the waters of the Chobe river in Botswana Chobe National Park, in the north eastern of the country on March 20, 2015. African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades, experts warned on March 23, 2015 at a major conservation summit …
CHRIS JEK/AFP/Getty Images

More than 80 dead elephants with their tusks removed have been discovered “in a famous wilderness area” in Botswana over the past several months.

In recent months, there has been “a major escalation in elephant poaching,” according to a report by Elephants Without Borders. Organization director Michael Chase personally sighted 48 slain pachyderms in a single flyover, calling it “indicative of a poaching frenzy which has been ongoing in the same area for a long time.”

“Traffic” conservation group program manager Tom Milliken said that the report signals “a major escalation in elephant poaching.” Botswana “had a growing elephant population and was probably feeding expansion,” said Milliken, but now “anything newly born is being offset by poaching.”

University of Cape Town Criminology researcher Annette Hübschle said that even in Botswana, “the darling of the conservation world,” communities — especially rural ones — “are likely to support poachers and poaching economies because there are no benefits to these conservation areas for them.” This, in turn, “creates pathways to illegal economies.”

The chief culprit in elephant decline seems to be China. While they have officially banned the ivory trade, it continues to thrive through social media, borne up by eager tourists. “The policy moves on the demand side are much like one hand clapping if you’re not dealing with the Chinese threats to elephants in Africa,” Milliken said.

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