More out of denial than hope, one of the observers said, ‘we won’tsee any poached elephant carcasses today’, as the survey team walked to the plane. My crew today were unusually quiet on our long 45-minute ferry to the survey area, perhaps the smoke-filled sky from bush fires added to the macabre atmosphere and thought of counting more dead elephants.
The drone of the Cessna 206 and quite reflection of the crew was interrupted when the Right Back Seat
Observer shouted, “Elephant Carcass – Fresh!”. I yelled for our pilot to ‘Orbit’. Circling round to find an
elephant carcass is difficult, but our pilot has become familiar with this manoeuvre. The Right Observer
pointed to the carcass, a signal for me to take a photo and GPS location – I saw hyenas’ feeding on the fresh
elephant carcass. Almost simultaneously the Left Observer saw a second carcass – two dead elephants within
a few 100m of each other – both with their faces hacked to remove their tusks.
Today we counted 48 elephant carcasses, I’ll repeat that – 48 dead elephants. Carcasses of all age categories
– five of which were classified as Fresh – i.e. have been killed in the past few days! All carcasses presumed to
be poached, because all of them had their skulls chopped to remove their tusks. Poachers tried to hide their
crimes by concealing the mounds of rotting flesh with drying bushes. Certainly, we flew over one of Africa’s
worst poaching hotspots today. I can attest to that with data having flown the Great Elephant Census, and not
seen so many dead elephants anywhere else in Africa. The varying classification and age of carcasses is
indicative of a poaching frenzy which has been ongoing in the same area for a long time.
These elephants were killed in a famous Wilderness area, managed by one of the world’s largest eco-tourism
travel companies. The region has a strong military presence with two airfields. The Botswana Government
can’t be expected to stop this poaching alone, it is incumbent upon all tourism companies – who have a
responsibility to conserve these areas – to start putting their money where their mouth is and invest into
protecting what they profit from, Botswana’s natural heritage! For a moment, stop building more lodges in a
World Heritage site and start doing something to help stop this madness.
We have exhausted our resources on helicopter time, so to anyone who doesn’t believe in the scale of
elephant poaching the survey team is reporting, they can pay for the helicopter charter and I’ll fly with them
to the carcasses, so they can wake-up, come down from their ivory tower, smell the carcass and see what we
are bearing witness to…faceless rotting elephants!
If you are reading this and thinking ‘Oh what can I do to help? Send this dispatch to someone who cares and
can help us stop this killing. Come on Botswana, lets work together to save our elephants!
Read full report: Ivory Tower MJCa