The government is considering taking legal action against researcher, Dr Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders (EWB) over “sensational untruths” and possible contractual breach, according to Mmegi.
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Deputy Director Churchill Collyer revealed Wednesday that the government has taken the matter to the Attorney General to look into a possible breach of Chase’s contract with government. He was responding to questions during a tour by local and international media of various sites where Chase recently alleged a poaching massacre involving 87 elephants had occurred over two months.
Chase was contracted by government in March through the DWNP to conduct an aerial survey of elephants in northern Botswana. Collyer said Chase has been allowed to finish the survey despite the government questioning of the researcher’s numbers.
It is believed the breach of contract could relate to Chase’s reporting of his findings outside of the official channels to the DWNP, which contracted him for the survey. Earlier this month, various international and local media quoted Chase on the alleged “87 elephants massacred near Botswana wildlife sanctuary”. The story is still trending on the websites of those media sources.
The report caused a media storm that threatens the reputation of Botswana as a global star in conservation, especially of elephants. Many international media outlets reported that Botswana is “no longer a refuge of the African elephant”.
In the wake of the report, the Botswana government has been battling to contain the crisis by issuing rebuttals, inviting the media to press conferences and site visits to the areas in question. This week the government invited both international and local media on a fact-finding mission to the sites of the alleged ‘87 elephants massacred’. It flew into Gaborone a contingent of over 25 local journalists as well as those from Europe and South Africa (at the taxpayer’s expense) to meet up with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) based in the Chobe areas.
Chase was curiously missing. Government communications official, Osisinaqa Lekgoko told Mmegi they “failed to get hold of Chase”as his phone was not available and they received no responses to the messages they sent. This is despite the fact that the government knows that Chase spends the whole day flying on the survey as well as the location of his research base camp at Abu since they have a DWNP staff member attached to the EWB census.
By Wednesday, the press was flown in with six helicopters to six elephant carcasses that EWB reported as “recently poached”. During the briefing, National Anti-Poaching Coordinator brigadier Simon Barwabatsile said Chase only showed them the coordinates of 36 elephant carcasses.
Barwabatsile told the media that they flew with Chase for two days and found only 19 carcasses.
“Ten of the carcasses we found on the first day, while nine were found the next day. We verified that six in the total of 19 were indeed poached,” Barwabatsile said.
He also said all the carcasses were not as ‘recent’ as the media reports suggested because they found them to be around ‘eight months’ old. Barwabatsile said Chase did not give them all the coordinates for the alleged 87 poached elephants.
Dr Chase was recently quoted as saying;
“EWB’s sole concern is for the wildlife and the natural heritage of our wonderful country.”
It’s very ironic that Chase suddenly became unreachable when he could have put his case forward to explain his recent decisions and actions. This strikes me as odd and I feel if his actions were really as noble as he insists they are, he would have relished the opportunity that he suddenly decided to close the door on. It’s all very curious and indeed very sad that it all came to this.