More than 350 elephants have died in northern Botswana in a mysterious mass die-off described by scientists as a “conservation disaster”. A cluster of elephant deaths was first reported in the Okavango Delta in early May, with 169 individuals dead by the end of the month. By mid June, the number had more than doubled, with 70% of the deaths clustered around waterholes.
Botswana’s High Court has ruled in favor of decriminalizing homosexuality in a landmark decision for campaigners. The court rejected laws that impose up to seven years in prison for same-sex relationships, stating they were unconstitutional. The move contrasts with Kenya’s recent ruling against campaigners seeking to overturn laws on gay sex. The law has been in place since 1965 when it was brought in by the colonial British government.
Elephants Without Borders discovered the bodies of 87 elephants killed and stripped for their tusks near a Botswana protected sanctuary. Many of the elephants were killed within the last few weeks. Botswana’s government disarmed the country’s anti-poaching unit in May. The scale of the deaths is said to be the largest in Africa to date.
Botswana has lifted its ban on elephant hunting, saying the population has increased and farmers’ livelihoods are being affected, in a move likely to trigger outrage from conservationists. President Ian Khama, a keen environmentalist, introduced a prohibition on elephant hunting in the southern African country in 2014. Landlocked Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide open spaces.