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tv   Botswana  BBC News  March 16, 2019 2:30pm-3:00pm GMT

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to travel wales today which lead to travel problems and some minor damage. keep listening to bbc radio four latest travel information. this low pressure spreading west to east. scotla nd pressure spreading west to east. scotland and northern ireland will see a cold day with snow turning to rain in southern scotland, snow is still across the higher ground in central and northern areas, ten centimetres or more. brighter spells to the north of scotland with showers did this afternoon in northern ireland, sometimes heavy. for england and wales, fairly cloudy, some brightness to the south and east persistent rain west of the pennines and into wales which could cause minor flooding and for eve ryo ne cause minor flooding and for everyone it is very windy and gusts between a0 and 60 mph. some travel problems and even some minor damage, the odd tree down. mild compared
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with colder day for the north were someplace places never go above freezing. rained spreading eastwards, snow clears away from scotla nd eastwards, snow clears away from scotland and through the night, a mixture of clear skies and scattering of showers, some of the shower is wintry further north and west. with the clearer skies, following on from the conditions today, part of scotland and northern england could see icy conditions. 0n the back edge of this system is then scotla nd the back edge of this system is then scotland could still experience strong winds of around 50 miles per, blustery across the border but we will all see sunshine throughout sunday with lengthy clear skies but clusters of showers working southwards and eastwards. rain, hill stones, slicked, thunder and hill snow as well. added wind—chill to these temperatures but all that
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dissipates into it next week, some morning frosts, admittedly but much more mild and dry and much less windy as well. take care. more mild and dry and much less hello, this is bbc news with rebecca jones. the headlines: brenton tarrant, the main suspect in the new zealand mosque shootings in which a9 people were killed, has appeared in court on a single murder charge. new zealand police say they believe a lone gunman was involved in the attacks. prime ministerjacinda ardern has vowed: "0ur gun laws will change." new zealand is united in its grief, and we are united in our grief. in other news: tory mp nick boles resigns from his local conservative association — in the face of efforts to deselect him as the candidate for the next election.
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now on bbc news 7 trouble in the elephant sanctuary. alastair leithead presents a special programme on how poaching has provoked a political row over whether botswana has too many elephants. botswana is africa's last great elephant sanctuary. a third of the continent's herds live here. latest estimates say there are at least 130,000 of them. but they are notoriously difficult to count. for decades, these giants have been safely travelling their ancestral migration routes, while their cousins in other countries have been hit hard by poaching. but now even botswana's elephants are under threat. from an infant mortality perspective
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we found that the numbers of fresh or recent infant carcasses had increased by nearly 600%. there is new evidence of well—organised poaching. but, in a bitter political climate, there is a question over whether there is more emphasis on shooting the messenger than accepting that there is a problem. we deny that 87 elephants were ever killed in the wildlife sanctuary, because we went there and we couldn't find 87 carcasses. but there is evidence there to see. well, the response from various people was to try and deny or whitewash. they labelled me a traitor and a liar. without having actually verified the evidence that we bore witness to. i think the government has been
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hiding it for a while, and now that it has been brought out in the open, they are now realising how serious the problem is. but toxic politics ahead of an election, luxury tour operators with a reputation to uphold, and increasing human—wildlife conflict is stirring up trouble in one of the elephants' last sanctuaries. botswana has grown rich on diamonds, and is known as one of the most stable and least corrupt places in sub—saharan africa. tourism is its second—biggest earner, and the cornerstone of that is its wildlife and its wilderness. the kalahari desert inhabits most
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of a country the size of portugal and spain, but with less than 2.5 million people, and the beautiful inland 0kavango delta flows into its north—west corner. elephants once roamed through its international borders, through angola, namibia, zambia and zimbabwe, but a spike in poaching there has led them to seek sanctuary where they feel safe, in northern botswana. for 50 years, a small organisation called elephants without borders has been watching its wildlife. they have flown three aerial surveys, counting everything. buffalo and antelopes, hippos and elephants. flying back and forth, photographing and recording. mike chase was the scientist for the first ever great elephant census, which surveyed 18 african countries.
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in 2016 he warned that a third of africa's elephants had been wiped out in just seven years. aerial surveys are incredibly valuable. they provide us with an opportunity to better understand the status of an elephant population. are their numbers declining, stable or increasing? i can think of no other method available to a scientist that better provides us with information on the conservation status of elephants. here in botswana, things have been going well — perhaps too well. the country's world —famous conservation credentials, a determined political will and a reputation for being tough on poachers has created this last great sanctuary. there has been poaching here for a few years now, but when mike chase took to the skies last year for his latest four—yearly survey, he saw something that shocked him.
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northern botswana is a vast expanse of wilderness. with few roads, it's only from the air that you get to see the true extent of the wildlife. there's a big bull, jeez. when the aerial survey was done in this area, they identified a large number of elephant carcasses with evidence of poaching. we have come out here in the helicopter to verify those results. the area we are going to first is the location where we saw fresh or recent elephant carcasses during july and october last year. it is a hotspot in which there
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are 88 poached elephants, based upon a grand assessment that we did. based upon a ground assessment that we did. that is elephants that he says died less than a year ago. 0n the right. following his co—ordinates, we soon began to discover them. there it is. so, this was government—verified. you can see the big x. red spraypaint on the carcass. it is one of the few carcasses we saw verified in this way by the government. how many are there in this area? within this area now, 33. 0k? 33 at the same time? yes, 33 at the same time. that is a huge number. it is. and then, over a year, 88 within a similar area. but he says the authorities didn't believe him, and letters to ministers and the
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president went unanswered. so he went to the media, with initial reports of 87 carcasses. the story went viral. then came the official response. then came the reaction. one issue was timing. botswa na's new president, mokgweetsi masisi, was clashing with his predecessor, ian khama, especially over approaches to conservation. mike chase is close to the former president, so announcing a poaching crisis a few months into masisi's term in office was seen by some people as a political attack on the new president and sparked a storm of controversy. 0fficials admitted they spent only two days with mike chase, trying to verify findings that took two months to gather. then it got nasty. the president went on the offensive,
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saying it was the biggest hoax of the 21st century. i do not agree that has been a spike in poaching in botswana. but we were given government permission to visit one of four hotspots he identified. it suggested organised and co—ordinated poaching. soon you will notice for yourself that a pattern emerges, that most of the elephants were poached near seasonal waterholes. so the poachers would just wait for the elephants to come down and drink, and shoot them. yeah, here it is, here. 0n the nose, here. the last time you were here was when? i was here in september,
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four months ago. and at that time, this carcass was fresh. days old. you can smell it. you can still smell it. but at the time it was putrid, it was maggot—infested, it had droppings on it from the vultures. it was wet. and still now, you can see the flesh on the bones. clear evidence of poaching, half of its cranium has been chopped by a very sharp axe or machete. you will also notice that the tail has probably been cut, for the tail hairs. and then all around the periphery of the carcass, all these bushes, which at the time were chopped and cut to conceal the carcass, because it is very open here. in order to avoid detection. so rather than using another bullet, and avoiding shot detection, they would have severed his spinal cord, rendering him paralysed, and defenceless, while they chopped his tusks out.
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so it would have been alive? yes, that would have been the only reason to chop the spinal cord, because he was wounded, he was alive. mike chase scientifically recorded all the carcasses at the time. his final report, with estimates of how recently they were killed, has been peer—reviewed by nine international elephant experts, who support his belief that this shows a new poaching spike. 0n the 201a aerial survey, none of the dead elephants that we saw we attributed to having been poached. and how many have you found this time? on this aerial survey, we suspect that 128 elephants were poached. that is more than initially reported, and from the data, mike chase estimates 800 elephants died recently. six times more than four years ago. he concludes a significant poaching outbreak is ongoing. but in a population of 130,000
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it is a drop in the ocean, and doesn't yet pose a threat to the overall elephant population. at what point do we say we have a problem? 10? 50? 100, 150? 1000? you know, we can't... lessons have taught us, when we look at tanzania, which lost 60% of its elephant population in five years, that is how quickly poaching can settle into a population. we can either go to 22 or 19. let's do 19, then 22. following the coordinates, we continued to verify more carcasses, to find new ones over two days. well, there's two we have found just here. a huge concentration of carcasses we have seen just in this small area. a real hotspot. and from the air, you can see where they have been poached, where their faces have been cut off. this is where mike chase saw the carcasses he calls "fresh," less than a month old.
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these are "recent," a month to a year old. and these, "old," up to two years. this is where we flew to verify some of his results. of those verified on the ground, he says all were poached. but there is resistance to his findings. his licence to work has been suspended. the government questions his methodology and wants the raw data to verify the results again. the inference that we drew from that report was that these elephants were massacred in a day or two. we are not denying that elephants are being killed in botswana. but we are denying that 87 elephants were never killed next to a wildlife sanctuary in northern botswana, because we went there and we couldn't find 87 carcasses. you have seen an increase in poaching in botswana. we are seeing a number of poaching incidents that are quite disturbing. how bad has it become?
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well, it is of concern. it is of concern because we don't want to lose any species to poachers. any illegal uptake, irrespective of the quantity, is of concern to us. and poaching, you know — when somebody crosses into your country at an undetected crossing point armed with whatever weapon they may have, whether it is a weapon for hunting, it is not licensed to operate in botswana, it challenges our national security. it is of concern to us. the botswana defence force takes the lead on anti—poaching. the country has had a fierce reputation for dealing with poachers, but denies having a shoot to kill policy. they believe criminal syndicates cross over the long and open border, use local trackers to find elephants to kill, and then take the ivory back over the border
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to be trafficked to asia. it's a tough job, policing a vast wilderness. poaching was always going to come here to botswana, where one third of africa's elephants live. but the controversy surrounding this recent findings of carcasses has sparked a much wider national debate. there are questions over whether enough of the money being brought in by luxury safaris is going back to communities. how do people who live next door to these dangerous elephants can be persuaded that they are worth protecting. and also, whether or not hunting should be reintroduced. this is one of our most luxurious products... kim nixon is managing director at wilderness safaris. in the high season, these rooms go for $7,000 per couple per night. bono and sir richard branson stay here, and are investors in wilderness safaris. prince harry is among the many famous guests. but one of the elephant carcass hotspots is in an area
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owned by wilderness. they have also recently lost rare rhinos near this lodge. do you have a poaching problem? i think poaching is an issue. it's an issue that has existed certainly as long as we have been in botswana. it's difficult to say as a private sector company, you know, what — how big the poaching problem actually is because we're not privy to all of the data, what our obligation is as a concessionaire is to report that information to the government, who then act accordingly act upon it. these shocking images of dead rhinos are not what high—end tourists want to see on safari. 13 have been killed in a year. talking to a lot of people here, we get the sense that there's a denial that there is a poaching problem going on here. what's your response to that? i don't think there is any denial whatsoever. whenever poaching has occurred in any of our concession areas, each and every incident has been reported as a criminal case. off the record, some commercial
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operators admit there's a problem. 0ne company owner in the 0kavango delta told us publicly what many people say privately. i think the government has been hiding it for a while, and now that's it's been brought out into the open, we're now realising how serious the problem is, and these big poachers have actually penetrated further than we expected them to be. i think the government and most of us are concerned that it'll affect the businesses that we operate. a lot of tourists come through to us because of the antipoaching and what the government does with its wildlife. i think we have to have everybody understand that this problem can only be solved if we all come into it together and work on it.
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living next door to a herd of elephants isn't easy. this is the damage they often do. the custodians of the wildlife are the local communities. they can protect the animals if they benefit financially, or they can help the poachers. the morokotso family are planting maize, and it's a big risk renting the plough and paying for seed. many villagers here have given up on growing crops because of the elephants. they can eat a whole harvest in a day. they lost their crop to the elephants, she explains, and some of their livestock to lions, but the authorities didn't help. there's no sign of the compensation payments they should have received for losing animals. so i asked, are elephants
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a national treasure? "it's not a treasure to be kept, certainly not near you", he said. "they have to be far away from where we live." it's a big problem. a popular opinion in many communities is that the number of elephants is increasing. aerial surveys suggest that's not true, that the population is static, but elephants are expanding their range, how far they wander. this leads to more conflict with humans. in the past four years, we lost two people here in the village, who were killed by the elephants, but now they are just killing the domestic animals. i think the government can just introduce hunting of the elephants again, killing them so that maybe they will be reduced.
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so the elephants's last great sanctuary is the victim of its own success. while foreigners come and pay a fortune to see them, communities are calling for them to be killed, but hunting can be used for conservation. when you look at this dung, and the footprint, it shows us that this elephant is between about ten to 15 years. so quite a young elephant? yes. this man is a tracker. he used to work for a professional hunter, but he's been unemployed since the government banned hunting in 2013. this is the one for this dung. this circle here? this circle here. no, i am now suffering because i don't have nothing to put on the table for my family, the children, everybody. even the community now is suffering because when you look across, it is a small village. most of the people there, they are old, they are not educated, so they don't have that chance of going to work somewhere else, they are just based here in the village, and now they are suffering because there's no hunting.
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unemployed trackers can be recruited by poachers. hunting was banned by former president khama. the new president has launched a public consultation and appears to be in favour of lifting the hunting ban and supporting
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