Poached and stripped of their tusks, 87 elephants were found dead in a protected sanctuary in Botswana, Africa. The elephants’ remains were found under drying bushes by Elephants Without Borders – a conservation nonprofit.
According to the organization, it “discovered the alarming rate while flying the Botswana government aerial [elephant] census,” near the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary. The incident was presumed to be from poaching because “all of them had their skulls chopped to remove their tusks,” Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders said to the BBC.
“I’m shocked, I’m completely astounded,” Chase said. “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date.”
While its believed that the 87 elephants were recently poached in the last few weeks, “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,” according to an Elephant Poaching Incident Report written by Chase.
Botswana, which is home to the largest elephant population in the world, according to the Great Elephant Census, is also the grounds for “37 percent of its continent’s endangered elephant population,” NPR reported, but that is steadily declining as the continent’s elephant population decreased 30 percent from 2007 to 2014. While the country used to have an anti-poaching unit in place, the “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers was put on hold since Mokgweetsi Masisi became president. President Masisi announced in May that the “government has decided to withdraw military weapons and equipment from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks” without further explanation.
“We have the world’s largest elephant population, and it’s open season for poachers,” Chase said.