Mmegi Online :: Chase’s desperate plea for Masisi’s ear
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Last Updated
Friday 21 September 2018, 15:09 pm.
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Chase’s desperate plea for Masisi’s ear

Dr Mike Chase has been trying to reach out to President Mokgweetsi Masisi for sometime now. He said he had hand delivered the last of three letters to the Office of the President (OP) on August 21, 2018 and there was still no word from OP.
By Thalefang Charles Fri 07 Sep 2018, 11:58 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Chase’s desperate plea for Masisi’s ear








The Elephant Without Borders (EWB) director has been making attempts to report his explosive ‘discovery’ that is threatening the country’s tourism image about the dead elephants to the highest office in Botswana.  But unlike in the past administration where he had the direct contact with former president Ian Khama, Chase’s failed attempts to get the President’s audience has led him to reach out to the world media in order to get attention. It appears that Chase believed that sending his discovery to the world media would get everyone to focus on the elephant situation in Botswana.

Chase is currently leading the Botswana Elephant Census in the north of country that is sponsored by Botswana government, through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and EWB. In the first two weeks of the survey he said they discovered an alarming numbers of poached elephants.  “In the first 10 days we discovered 51 fresh carcasses of poached elephants,” said Chase last month.

In early August this year, Chase published an explosive report titled ‘Ivory Tower’ that he shared with the local media.

The report suggested that despite the perceived strict anti-poaching strategies by government, there is a major poaching frenzy on elephants taking place in Botswana.

He wrote in the report: “Today (August 3, 2018) we counted 48 elephant carcasses, I’ll repeat that - 48 dead elephants. Carcasses of all age categories – five of which were classified as Fresh – that is have been killed in the past few days,” said the report.

There was no other verification on Chase’s numbers. The unsubstantiated claims were widely reported by various local newspapers and some leading conservation blogs in the region. But Chase wanted the matter to be addressed by the President.

He conveniently chose to court the Western media when President Masisi was in China. It is a clear strategy because most of the West is envious of Africa-China’s new relationship and China is seen as bogeyman hungry for African elephants’ tusks. Former president Khama shared Chase’s passion for conservation and was very influential during the past administration. In 2014, Khama summarily banned all hunting basing his arguments on some of Chase’s census reports suggesting animal population declines.

The lifting of the hunting ban is currently being discussed and unlike Khama’s administration, the new president has called for consultation and discussion on the issue even after Parliament passed the motion to lift the ban.

Chase is strongly against the hunting and maintains that the elephant population in Botswana is not big.

“The last two elephant surveys (2010 and 2014) by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and Elephants Without Borders (EWB) revealed an estimate of 130, 000 elephants in northern Botswana. Looking at 20 years of data, our demographic modelling, shows the elephant population has been stable for the past 15 years,” said Chase.

So if the elephant numbers have been

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stable what could be the cause of the sudden increase as claimed by Chase’s recent reports?

In 2014, Chase conducted a massive three-year Great Elephant Census (GEC) project funded by billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen.

The report from the GEC revealed that Botswana held 37% of the total elephant population followed by Zimbabwe at 23% and Tanzania with 12%. According to the report Botswana and Zimbabwe have the highest density of elephants than all countries surveyed.

Botswana’s tough stance on elephant conservation under former president Khama especially with what was labelled as “knee-jerk reaction” blanket hunting ban in 2014 has compounded the elephant overpopulation situation for Botswana.

Since elephants are intelligent animals with excellent memory, after the ban on hunting most of southern African elephants migrated to a safe haven that is Botswana. Dozens of herds of these giants crossed into Botswana from neighbouring states where they were still being hunted and never went back.

“Elephants are fleeing away from the relentless poaching in our neighbouring countries and they are moving down south in areas populated by people and they are causing lots of damage to farmers’ crops and property,” reported Chase in 2016.

Most of these shocking discoveries by Chase come from areas next to the border with Namibia. From his reports it shows that NG11, NG13, NG14, NG15, NG16 and NG18 has become hotspots for poachers.

These are mainly quiet areas between the border with Namibia and the villages along the Okavango spillway from Seronga to Gudigwa. It showed that most of the poaching was done by mercenaries from neighbouring countries. For Chase to put a blame on the disarming of rangers is unfortunate and irresponsible because he knows the issues far too well.

Rangers were mainly guarding national parks and not the area where most of the reported poaching supposedly happened.

Additionally, Botswana is a peaceful country, both for humans and animals. Guns are a rare sight in Botswana – even police do not carry guns. If a situation requires firepower, the military takes over. Under Khama administration (who was former commander of the army) he armed a unit under the ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, led by his brother Tshekedi Khama.

Masisi however disarmed the unit and left the anti-poaching responsibilities to the highly trained Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF) Anti Poaching Unit.

The fully armed rangers were posing security risk since they were seen as the Khamas’ personal army designed to protect their interests. Chase is looking to influence the debate on the lifting of the hunting ban.

 He knows that most of tourists coming to Botswana are elderly sensitive travellers who are attracted by Botswana’s conservation success.

It is saddening because Chase’s report could hurt Botswana’s tourism and the economy as a whole. The people of Botswana are double punished for protecting the wildlife, a costly exercise that has caused many human deaths and loss to property.

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