Dark clouds loom over Botswana’s international image as Mike Chase submits long-awaited report


Sunday Standard / The Telegraph

Date Published

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Botswana Government was this week bracing itself for a renewed round of negative publicity as well as likely international fallout from a consultancy Report by the controversial scientist Mike Chase who has recently submitted his elephant study in Botswana to Government.

Late last year Botswana Government had figures burnt after a slew of international publicity alleging that hundreds of elephants had been killed by poachers.

The reports were later proved to be false as some of the carcasses had long died including from natural causes like disease, old age and thirst. Yet others had been poached.

Dr Chase’s submission of the Report to the Department of Wildlife came with an attached health- warning, advising Government that they had seven days within which to pour through the Report before he made it public.

Government protests did not sway Dr Chase from passing the Report to a third party.

By Monday morning BBC World News had already accessed snippets of the Report. And had started quizzing Botswana Government on some of the findings of the Report, including alleged spike in poaching which the Report attributes to a decision by Government to take away some arms from the Anti-Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife.

Even before Government officials had read the Report, the BBC Johannesburg Bureau had already asked for an interview with President Mokgweetsi Masisi among others.

The Department of Wildlife officials had turned down requests for interviews on the basis that the Report had only just been submitted, and that other key leaders in Government were yet to see it.

Minister responsible for wildlife Kitso Mokaila confirmed that the Report by Chase had been submitted with officials.

He said the official position was to submit it to peer-review before its made public.

The peer review will test such matters like methodology, findings and recommendations.

Dr Chase had also taken the BBC crew to Botswana’s northern tourism enclave where they had been shown carcasses of dead elephants ostensibly as proof that under Mokgweetsi Masisi Botswana was failing and going back on its traditional conservation efforts.

This has already rubbed Botswana Government the wrong way.

At least two officials with close knowledge of events have told The Telegraph that Botswana Government is ready to defend itself and its conservation credentials, notwithstanding Dr Chase findings.

The officials said will not be caught flatfooted as was the case when Mike Chase first broke what turned to be a false alarm last year that scores of elephants had been poached.