Botswana yesterday dismissed and condemned as unsubstantiated and sensational media reports attributed a non-governmental organisation, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), claiming between 97 and 90 elephants were killed in one incident in that country.
In a statement, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Mr Thato Y Raphaka condemned attempts by individuals or groups to give a false impression that "they love Botswana wildlife more than citizens of Botswana".
"The government of Botswana has noted with concern the unsubstantiated and sensational media reports on elephant poaching statistics in Botswana carried by some local and international media attributed to Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a non-governmental organisation contracted by the Botswana government to carry out the dry season aerial survey of elephants and wildlife in northern Botswana covering Chobe, Okavango, Ngamiland and North Central District," he said.
"The stories allege that about 90 elephants have been indiscriminately killed recently. To this end, the government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public and other key stakeholders that these statistics are false and misleading.
"At no point in the months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana."
Mr Raphaka said the survey conducted by EWB started on July 5, 2018 and is expected to end on September 30, 2018.
"During the conduct of the survey from the 5th of July up to the 1st of August 2018, EWB reported that they had come across 53 elephant carcasses which were incidences that had already been cumulatively reported officially to the government as early as July and August of this year," he said.
"Of the aforementioned 53 reported, a verification mission between July and August established that the majority were not poached, but rather died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and wildlife conflicts.
"The government of Botswana wishes to state that it is unfortunate that some media reports attribute the rise in elephant poaching primarily to the withdrawal of weapons from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) anti-poaching units.
"It should be noted that the government of Botswana has from the 1980s directed all security agencies to commit resources towards anti-poaching, a practice that continues to this date.
"Therefore, the withdrawal of weapons from DWNP has not created any vacuum in anti-poaching operations as the anti-poaching unit of the DWNP continues to play a pivotal role in combating wildlife crime through other strategic interventions."
Mr Raphaka said withdrawing weapons from DWNP was in line with the existing legislation which did not allow the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to own such weapons.
"In conclusion, the government of Botswana wishes to condemn in the strongest terms possible attempts by individuals or groups who give false impression that they love Botswana wildlife more than citizens of Botswana," he said.
"Government wishes to reiterate the fact that wildlife remains a national heritage and our citizens will protect it at all costs."