Little lies, big lies and propaganda
Hardly a week after a contingent of both local and foreign journalists returned from a government sponsored fact finding mission on the state of poaching in the country, yet another alarming incident of poaching has been reported in the same area.
A leaked Department of Wildlife and National Parks Report dated 25/09/2018 has indicated that, a tourist operator in the Khwai area (name known to this publication) has reported allegations of 12 fresh carcasses of elephants that could have been poached in the area also known as NG 19.
“ He was worried that international tourists were cancelling their bookings in protest of the exponential increase in poaching, a source within DWNP has said.
Efforts to reach the operator failed as his office in Maun said he was unreachable by telephone whilst in the bush.
Last week a contingent of 25 journalists were flown in Botswana Defence Force helicopters in a two -day fact finding mission concerning the
alleged 87 elephants that were reported as “recently poached” by Dr Mike Chase, a researcher in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. (DWNP).
Chase of Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting an aerial survey, whose results are to be released in October reported that his preliminary findings had indicated that the scale of poaching deaths is the largest seen in Africa.
The sharp increase in poaching, he claimed in a story that was widely reported by the international media, coincided with the withdrawal of weapons from the anti poaching unit in May.
The government through the office of the president refuted the allegations in a press release and further organized the impressive Fact-verification mission executed by the Botswana Defence Force in their squirrel helicopters flying in formation over the Chobe- Ngamiland area.
But after the trip, which brought together high ranking government officials to counter the controversial news, that sent shock waves in the international community, most of the journalists on that mission went back still unable to say for sure whether Dr Chase story was a big lie, propaganda, or the truth.
A foreign correspondent from the German radio summed up the general frustrated feeling of journalists when she said that although the mission had successfully poked holes in Mike Chase’s story and planted doubt in his report, that 87 elephants were poached in a short period of time, it had however drastically failed to disprove his story either, especially that Chase immediately released a counter press release sticking to his guns and stating that he was not invited to the government press conference where the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Deputy Director, Churchill Collyer, said that government had taken the matter to the Attorney General to look into possible legal action against him.
Dismissing Chase’s outrageous figures at the same press conference National Anti-Poaching Committee (NACP) chairperson, Brigadier Simon Barwabatsile said the national average of poached elephants has always hovered at 80 per year and so far there were 63 recorded incidents of poaching which was within the normal range.
On the trip the BDF was able to locate only 19 carcasses with only six confirmed to be victims of poaching while Chase, Brigadier Barwabatsile said only showed them the coordinates of 36 elephants carcasses.
Asked about the new worrisome report by seemingly concerned tourist operator, government agencies yesterday dismissed reports as a ‘false alarm.’
“ I’ll investigate but I doubt the truth of that report. The gentleman mentioned is a close friend of Dr Chase. He can be seen in one of the pictures standing next to him,” said an agent on the ground.