GABERONE – The carcasses of 87 elephants have been found near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, in what conservation group Elephants Without Borders called "the largest scale of elephant poaching to date".
The remains were discovered during an aerial survey near a protected elephant sanctuary, the group said on Facebook.
Talking to the BBC, Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders said he was shocked by the discovery of the elephants, who had their tusks removed for their ivory.
"When I compare this to figures and data from the Great Elephant Census, which I conducted in 2015, we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa," Chase said.
According to the organisation's elephant census, Botswana hosts the biggest number of African savanna elephants with about 130,000 elephants, more than triple the size of Tanzania's elephant population and almost eight times that of South Africa.
"The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana. We have the world's largest elephant population and it's open season for poachers," Chase added.
Botswana's anti-poaching unit underwent budget cuts in May, shortly after newly elected President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn in.
Its shoot to kill policy was dropped as members of the unit were disarmed.
Since then, poachers have crossed into Botswana's territories more frequently, edging ever closer to its protected elephant sanctuaries.
The number of elephants in Africa has decreased significantly in recent years.
According to the Great Elephant Census, the number of elephants decreased by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, or about 144,000 animals.
In total, 352,271 elephants in were counted in 18 countries by the census takers.
On a year-by-year basis, the number of elephants decreased by eight percent, mostly because of poaching.
The vast majority of elephants, 84 percent, was spotted in protected elephant sanctuaries.