On Wednesday, Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) deputy director Churchill Collyer, revealed that 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 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 in the websites of those media sources. The report caused a stir 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, government has been battling to contain the crisis by issuing rebuttals, inviting the media on press conferences and site visits of the areas in question.
massacred’. A contingent of over 25 journalists from Europe, South Africa and locally was flown from Gaborone (at the taxpayer’s expense) to meet up with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) based in the Chobe areas.
Interestingly, Chase was missing on the media fact-finding mission. Osisinaqa Lekgoko from government communications said they “failed to get a hold of Chase” as his phone was not available and the messages they sent were not responded to.
This is despite the fact that government knows that Chase spends the whole day flying on the survey and they also know the location of his research base camp at Abu since they have a DWNP staff member embedded in 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 on 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.