A conservation group has made a horrifying find in Botswana, a country once thought to have been a bright spot amid the relentless slaughter of Africa's elephants. While conducting an aerial census of the country's elephants, they discovered the carcasses of 87 of the animals near a wildlife sanctuary. The elephants had been stripped of their tusks. "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," the Elephants Without Borders group wrote in an incident report seen by NPR.
Elephant populations in Africa declined by 30% between 2008 and 2014 alone due to rampant poaching, leaving Botswana, known for its tough response to poachers, with the world's largest population of the animals. But this year, the government of new President Mokgweetsi Masisi decided to disarm anti-poaching units, which used to have a shoot-to-kill policy. Conservationists fear many more elephants will be killed unless action is taken immediately. "I'm shocked, I'm completely astounded," Mike Chase from Elephants Without Borders tells the BBC. "The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I've seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date." (In Asia, bees are helping efforts to protect wild elephants.)