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90 elephants poached! Not in our AOR – BDF rubbishes Chase

“Eighty-seven elephant carcasses were found in the country, months after it disarmed its anti-poaching unit. The carcasses of 87 elephants have been discovered near a Botswana protected sanctuary, killed and stripped for their tusks. The elephants were discovered by Elephants Without Borders, a conservation nonprofit.”

This is the narrative that was sold to the international media and attributed to Dr Mike Chase who has been awarded a contract by the Government of Botswana to carry out a survey of elephants in the Ngami-Chobe area. However this week, a Task Team led by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF)’s Brigadier Simon Barwabatsile rubbished these reports which were attributed to Dr Mike Chase on 3rd September 2018. The Office of the President had invited local and international media on a tour of the area which was said to have invaded by poachers and elephants massacred and striped of their tusks.

“… the figure of 87 or around 90 that was circulated was not a true reflection of what has been recorded by all government agencies involved in anti-poaching operations to date in the Ngami-Chobe areas. The official figure recorded as from January to date is 63 poached elephants,” said Brigadier Barwabatsile, who indicated that on their verification tour they invited Dr Mike Chase. The exercise took two full days and only a total of 19 carcasses were located.

Before he delved into the numbers, Brigadier Barwabatsile indicated that the area that Dr Mike Chase referred to is under the control of the BDF, “…and as you can see we are armed, we have all the ammunition we need to deal with poachers.” In accounting for the elephants carcasses reported, Brigadier Barwabatsile said a total of 36 carcasses have been located as per the grid coordinates given. The carcasses were found to have died over the years from various causes including poaching, natural causes, as well as human/wildlife conflict among other causes.

According to the Brigadier, the task team realized that most of the carcasses are not recent and are scattered all over the area contrary to what has been attributed to Dr Mike Chase. “Among these carcasses less than 50 percent of them can be attributed to poaching which has been taking place over the years, but it has not worsened.” All these incidents occurred in BDF area of operation, he stressed as a way of shooting down the assertion that disarming Wildlife officers gave rise to poaching.

When giving his update on the anti-poaching situation in the Chobe-Ngami area, Brigadier Barwabatsile shared that the north of the country has a high population of elephants and this attracts poachers. He pointed out that they are aware that poachers come armed and they have to be addressed as such by those in operation. Brigadier Barwabatsile explained that the military provides safe and secure environment for elephants and the area of Chobe-Ngami has been under the control of the military since the 1970s.

He acknowledged that poaching has always been there and on average poachers kill about 80 elephants countrywide. The army Brigadier noted that the numbers attributed to Dr Mike chase are staggering hence they had to call him in and do a corroboration of facts.
“There has been no exponential increase in the number of elephants that died because of poaching. We take coordinates for every dead elephant in the bush and we keep them for future reference. It was established that most of the carcasses reported by Dr Chase were old, some died six month ago, others eight months, and three months; only a few were found to be fresh,” said Brigadier Barwabatsile.

Off all carcasses located one is estimated to have been lying there for 2-3 weeks; Three estimated to have died about 2-3 months ago, nine estimated to have lay dead for 6-8 months; while six are estimated to have died 12 months ago. Of the 19 carcasses located, 18 were without tusks, one had a pair of tusks and were collected by the task team. Of these number, six were found to be covered with tree branches – an indication that they died as a result of poaching. They were also found to be near water points, another sign that shows that poachers were involved because they ambush the elephants at water points.

12 carcasses had no sign of either being poached or dying of natural cause. An old camping site was identified which is an indication of a bigger group of poachers during winter season. The team realized it was the first time that Dr Mike Chase had visited some of the locations where these carcasses were identified. To step up the anti-poaching campaign, Brigadier Barwabatsile pointed out that they intend to enhance capacity of law enforcement agencies. He said there is need to ensure enforcement of legislations to preserve wildlife resources. Critical to the operations, Barwabatsile said community involvement in ant poaching initiatives must be increased while also accommodating interagency cooperation in operations.

 DR CHASE’S EWB RESPONDS

“Elephants Without Borders (EWB) has received many questions and comments regarding the elephant poaching situation that has been widely reported in the press. EWB has been working in partnership with the Government of Botswana (GoB) conducting aerial wildlife surveys since 2010. Our team, which includes members from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and other professionals, is perhaps the most experienced wildlife aerial survey team in Africa. Our current survey adheres to the highest international standards for counting wildlife, the same standards employed for the surveys EWB conducted in collaboration with the GoB in 2010 and 2014.

Dr. Michael Chase is recognised for his knowledge and dedication having received the Botswana Presidential Merit of Service Award and was also bestowed the Global Conservation in Action Award, a prestigious international conservation honour. Dr. Chase is a fourth generation Motswana and is a citizen of Botswana by birth.

EWB was awarded a grant from the Conservation Trust Fund, under the administration of the DWNP, to conduct the 2018 wildlife aerial survey of Northern Botswana. The 2018 survey, began on the 3 July in full partnership with the DWNP, and is due to be completed by October.
During this survey an unusually high number of elephant carcasses were seen by the survey team. As part of the survey, data (which include GPS locations, photographs, written records and cockpit voice recordings) are collected and then collated, checked and run through standard statistical analyses to generate the final report.

In addition, and given the high number of elephant carcasses seen during the survey, EWB felt it a moral and patriotic duty to immediately report this to the Government of Botswana, which it did soon after the survey commenced. EWB is, however, deeply saddened by recent articles both in the written media and on social media which have sought to portray the issue as being political. It is not. EWB has the greatest respect for Government and EWB is completely a-political in its work. EWB’s sole concern is for the wildlife and the natural heritage of our wonderful country and its preservation for future generations of Batswana.

Dr Chase was not extended an invitation to the recent Government of Botswana press briefing held in Kasane on the 19 September pertaining to a fact finding mission about alleged elephant poaching. EWB is not able, until further notice, to release any detailed information concerning the survey in general, nor potential cases of elephant poaching. We trust that concerned citizens of Botswana, the media and the international conservation community can respect these constraints and await the dissemination of the final survey report.”

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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