Mmegi Online :: Elephant frenzy tramples over the facts
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Wednesday 14 November 2018, 18:34 pm.
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Elephant frenzy tramples over the facts

Landing from his 10-day trip to China, whatever relief President Mokgweetsi Masisi feels about leading a successful mission that scored landmark deals for the country, will ebb once he steps off OK 1. Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI, reports
By Mbongeni Mguni Fri 07 Sep 2018, 11:58 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Elephant frenzy tramples over the facts








President Mokgweetsi Masisi will tomorrow (Saturday) mark yet another precedent by addressing a press briefing at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, upon his arrival from a 10-day official visit to China.

It is expected that Masisi will announce that together with his lieutenants, he was able to secure much if not all of the plus-P12.4 billion in transport infrastructure and other deals Botswana was seeking in China.

Successful as his mission undoubtedly is, the elephant in the room when he addresses his briefing, will the global frenzy sparked this week by a BBC report claiming 90 elephants were poached in an area near the Okavango Delta recently.

The report, based on data provided by a local NGO, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), painted a picture of poachers rounding up the elephants and executing them in a single incident, on a single day, hacking off tusks and trunks with impunity. The story was designed to shock and it did, hitting the print editions of global titles such as the New York Times and Washington Post. ‘It’s open season for poachers’, ‘Elephant massacre’, and other headlines invoked furious reactions from the global community, a lot of it aimed at Masisi after the BBC article claimed the alleged deaths were as a result of the President’s disarmament of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in May.

Government, through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, has responded, saying only 53 carcasses were spotted recently, the majority being elephants that died naturally over several months.

While the BBC and a handful of other world media have carried the response, the global firestorm continues and Masisi will want to add weight to Botswana’s position on the matter, particularly as he has been singled out as being responsible. In lending his weight to the matter, Masisi has the facts on his side. One key

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source is data from the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ initiative called by global elephant NGOs as “the most reliable measure” on the matter.

The latest MIKE figures suggest that the elephant deaths, whether one uses government’s figures or the EWB’s, are in line with the normal numbers recorded annually.

According to MIKE, surveys in the key Chobe area over the years have spotted elephant carcasses ranging from 153 in 2005, to 351 in 2012 and 239 in 2014. Of these, the highest numbers attributable to poaching were 28 deaths in 2012, 23 in 2014 and 22 last year.

Another fact Masisi will be eager to stress to the world is the narrative that the disarmament of the DWNP was the end of the shoot to kill policy. Anti-poaching efforts are still militarised, with the Botswana Defence Force and Directorate on Intelligence and Security personnel armed and on the ground, according to government.

Masisi could also use tomorrow’s briefing to again explain his review of the hunting ban, which appears to be the target of the slant being reported by global media. Addressing Batswana resident in Swaziland shortly after his inauguration, Masisi explained that the new government would tackle and redress issues that have long troubled citizens.

He also gave a glimpse of the position he is likely to take in the face of mounting opposition to his review of the hunting ban, resistance that he anticipated. “We are going to talk about these things. We had banned hunting of elephants and now should this be opened and if so, when, where and how?

“The animal that troubles many people, particularly in the North is the elephant. When it’s hungry and you’ve planted, it eats.  “It also kills people. We are going to talk about these things.”

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