A widely reported story that 90 elephants have been slaughtered in Botswana recently has been denounced as fake by the authorities. A government statement slammed the report, attributed to Elephants without Borders, as “false and misleading”, saying “at no point in the last months or recently were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana.” Botswana’s government and Survival International believe the story is linked to measures by the authorities there to disarm anti-poaching units.
Many conservationists are promoting the militarisation of conservation – the arming of wildlife officers, and shoot on sight policies towards anyone labelled a “poacher”. Many innocent tribal people have been caught in the crossfire.
A conference on the illegal wildlife trade will be held in London next month. Princes William and Harry are expected to attend. Survival is championing a new approach to conservation that puts tribal peoples at its heart, as a mounting body of evidence proves they manage their environment and its wildlife better than anyone else.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “False information is frequently broadcast in the name of conservation: For example, the fiction that al Shabab terrorists were funded by ivory poaching. That still endures, in spite of Interpol pointing out that it was false.
“Is the Botswana elephant story another pushback from militarised conservation against the “rights-based” model which the U.N., human rights experts, and many African environmentalists are now demanding? Is this just to create a clamour for rearming ecoguards in Botswana?
“Elephants Without Borders,” an NGO in the USA and Botswana, is certainly getting massive publicity, and presumably donations, as a result.
“Elephants Without Borders has been funded by a tourist company, Wilderness Safaris, which operates luxury camps on Bushman land – without their agreement, needless to say – and is (or was) also part-owned by former president Ian Khama, who has sat on the board of Conservation International. And militarised “fortress conservation” is strongly promoted by conservation NGOs, whose declared policies nowadays about “consulting” local people are largely empty sham.”