The carcasses of nearly 90 recently killed elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say.
An aerial survey located 87 elephants, many with their tusks removed, that were killed within the past three months. Five white rhinos were also poached in three months, the scientists who conducted the survey said.
It is thought that poaching in neighbouring counties may have pushed the elephants across the border into Botswana, where those pursuing ivory appear to have followed.
Mike Chase from the group Elephants Without Borders said he was shocked at the find.
“The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen, or read about anywhere in Africa to date,” he told the BBC.
“This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana Government.”
Africa’s elephant population has plummeted from millions around 1900 to as few as 415,000 today. In Tanzania alone, the elephant population declined by 60 per cent to 43,000 between 2009 and 2014, according to the Government.
The carcasses were found near the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, deep in Botswana. The aerial survey is only halfway through, and conservationists fear the final toll will be even higher.
“People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it,” said Dr Chase.
“The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana. We have the world’s largest elephant population and it’s open season for poachers.
“Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey.”