The carcasses of nearly 90 elephants have been found near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, in what conservationists called “the largest scale of elephant poaching to date,” Newsweek reports.
“I’m shocked, I’m completely astounded,” said Elephants Without Borders founder Dr. Mike Chase. “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date.”
The conservation nonprofit conducted an aerial survey, in which they found that 87 elephants had been poached in recent months. The killings have been found close to Botswana’s protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, which attracts tourists worldwide.
Poachers targeted the elephants primarily for their tusks, which were valued for their ivory and sold on the black market.
Botswana had largely escaped the elephant losses seen in other African countries because of its armed and well-managed anti-poaching units. But that unit underwent budget cuts earlier this year after President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn into office, leading to an increase in poaching since then.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, and but poachers have begun breaching its border after the government disarmed the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. “We have the world’s largest elephant population and it’s open season for poachers,” according to Dr. Chase. “Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey.”
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