Almost 90 elephants killed near famed Botswana wildlife sanctuary

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The Elephants Without Borders group and wildlife officials in Botswana have conducted half of a national elephant census and so far have counted almost 90 "fresh and recent" carcasses of poached elephants, group director Mike Chase said in an email.

"The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I have seen or read about in Africa to date", Chase said.

The organisation, which is carrying out an aerial survey, said numerous 87 elephants were poached for their tusks and five white rhinos have also been killed in three months.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took office in Botswana this year, has taken steps to reduce the use of military weapons in operations against poachers, according to local media reports.

The BBC has quoted Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders as saying: "I'm shocked".

The Great Elephant Census conducted in 2015 found that a third of African elephants have been lost in the last decade.

"The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana".

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"People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it", said Dr Chase. According to Chase, this might have been a result of the country's decision to disarm its anti-poaching unit.

Williams posted a graphic photo of one of the dead elephants to Instagram, writing, "Botswana WAS the last sanctuary of hope for our precious wildlife with a government that used to understand that value of protecting our wildlife".

On a year by year basis, the number of elephants decreased by eight percent, mostly because of poaching. "We have the world's largest elephant population and it's open season for poachers", Chase added.

'Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey'.

Although the discovery of 87 dead elephants was alarming enough in itself, BBC News wrote that Elephants Without Borders' aerial survey is only at the halfway point, which could point to a good chance of many more elephant carcasses being found as the survey continues.

Conservationists fear the scale of this new poaching problem is being ignored as it is bad for the country's reputation.

"This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana government". It's a move that goes against Botswana's former policy against poachers, which had garnered praise from conservationists for its "shoot to kill" stance.

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