Wildlife

Elephant Poaching in Botswana Rises

Botswana—widely considered a safe haven for elephants in Africa—appears to be suffering from its own surge in poaching, according to aerial survey work published today in the journal Current Biology. Botswana is estimated to be home to more than 130,000 savanna elephants—about a third of Africa’s remaining population. Until recently, the southern African country had largely escaped the scourge of elephant killings for ivory, still in high demand in China and elsewhere.

In 2014 there were no incidents of suspected elephant poaching in Botswana. But in 2018, across five areas, 156 fresh or recent carcasses whose skulls had been cut open and the tusks removed were counted. Many of the carcasses were hidden under bushes, suggesting, that those animals were victims of the illegal ivory trade.

Zero elephants poached in a year in Northern Mozambique Park

One of Africa’s largest wildlife preserves is marking a year without a single elephant found killed by poachers, which experts call an extraordinary development in an area larger than Switzerland where thousands of the animals have been slaughtered in recent years.

The apparent turnaround in Niassa reserve in a remote region of northern Mozambique comes after the introduction of a rapid intervention police force and more assertive patrolling and response by air, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the reserve with Mozambique’s government and several other partners.

Aggressive poaching over the years had cut the number of Niassa’s elephants from about 12,000 to little over 3,600 in 2016, according to an aerial survey. Anti-poaching strategies from 2015 to 2017 reduced the number killed but the conservation group called the rate still far too high.

Following the new interventions, the last time an elephant in the Niassa reserve was recorded killed by a poacher was May 17, 2018.

Although the low number of remaining elephants is also a factor in the decline in poaching, a year ago, it was estimated that fewer than 2,000 elephants remained in Niassa, now preliminary analysis of data from a survey conducted in October and not yet published indicated that about 4,000 elephants are in the reserve.

A year that appears to be free of elephant poaching in the sprawling reserve drew exclamations from some wildlife experts. “It is a major and very important development that poaching has ceased. This represents a major success.”

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