Dhaka, Sep 4 (UNB) - Carcases of nearly 90 elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say, reports the BBC.
Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting an aerial survey, said the scale of poaching deaths is the largest seen in Africa.
The spike coincides with Botswana's anti-poaching unit being disarmed.
Botswana has the world's largest elephant population, but poachers have been breaching its border.
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The scientist carrying out the extensive wildlife survey said many of the 87 dead elephants were killed for their tusks just weeks ago - and that five white rhinos have been poached in three months.
"I'm shocked, I'm completely astounded. The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I've seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date," said Dr Mike Chase from Elephants Without Borders.
"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."
That census estimated a third of Africa's elephants had been killed in the last decade and 60% of Tanzania's elephants had been lost in five years.
Botswana has had a reputation for an unforgiving approach to poachers and had largely escaped the elephant losses seen elsewhere.
Despite a lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe.
Incidents of poaching in the country were rare because of armed and well-managed anti-poaching units.
With 130,000 elephants, Botswana has been described as their last sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.
The first sign that was changing came two years ago when the BBC flew with Mr Chase close to the Namibian border and he discovered a string of elephant carcasses with their tusks removed for the first time.
Watch: Findings from the last Elephant census
But these latest killings have been found deep in Botswana - close to the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, which attracts tourists from around the world.
"People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it," said Mr Chase, who pointed to the disarmament of the country's anti-poaching unit as a cause.
"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."
The government disarmed its anti-poaching units in May - a month after President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn into office.
The units have focussed much of their effort on the border regions, which have historically been more vulnerable.
A senior official in the president's office, Carter Morupisi, told journalists in Botswana at the time that the "government has decided to withdraw military weapons and equipment from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks", but he did not explain why.
Botswana's 2018 Wildlife Aerial Survey is only half-way through and conservationists fear the final figure of poached elephants will be a lot higher.
The survey area is split into sections, or transepts, and the plane flies back and forth like a lawnmower cutting the grass - turning at each end to ensure nothing is missed.
"Fresh carcasses" are those lost within the last three months, but many of those recorded had been killed within the last few weeks.
Conservationists fear the scale of this new poaching problem is being ignored as it is bad for the country's reputation.
"This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana government," said Mr Chase.
"Botswana has always been at the forefront of conservation and it will require political will.
"Our new president must uphold Botswana's legacy and tackle this problem quickly. Tourism is vitally important for our economy, jobs, as well as our international reputation, which is at stake here as being a safe stronghold for elephants."
Kampala, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — A Ugandan pop star-turned-opposition lawmaker said Saturday he has arrived in the United States for medical care after allegedly being tortured while in detention.
Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said on Twitter Saturday that he suffered "brutal torture" by soldiers with the presidential guard, allegations the government has denied.
He posted a photo of himself in an airport corridor, sitting in a wheelchair and holding crutches, though it wasn't clear which city he was in.
Ssentamu left Uganda late Friday after an attempt to leave the previous day was blocked by officials who said he needed first to get clearance from the government because of his allegations of torture.
The holding of Ssentamu caused sporadic protests in some parts of the capital, Kampala.
Ssentamu and several other lawmakers are charged with treason over an incident on Aug. 13 in which the president's motorcade was pelted with stones. Ssentamu was freed on bail Monday.
Video posted by human rights attorney Nicholas Opiyo showed the 36-year-old singer in his trademark red beret and carrying crutches as he was wheeled to the departure gate late Friday, saluting and thanking supporters along the way.
Another lawmaker who was blocked on Thursday from flying to India for treatment, Francis Zaake, was still being held in a hospital Friday night.
Ssentamu has emerged as a powerful opposition voice among youth frustrated by President Yoweri Museveni, 74, who has been in power for 32 years and oversaw a constitutional change last year to remove an age limit on the presidency.
The singer won a parliament seat last year without the backing of a political party.
Dozens of global musicians including Chris Martin, Angelique Kidjo and Brian Eno last week issued an open letter condemning the treatment of Ssentamu, who in his first public appearance after his arrest had to walk with support and appeared to cry.
The treason charges have heightened concerns about a crackdown on the opposition in this East African nation.
Museveni, a close U.S. security ally, has spoken in recent days about "unprincipled politicians taking advantage of our unemployed youth to lure them into riots and demonstrations."
Cairo, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — Egypt's presidency has ratified a controversial legislation imposing regulations on social media that is says aims to crack down on fake news.
The law, published in the country's official gazette on Saturday, places social media accounts with over 5,000 followers under the supervision of the top media authority, which can block them if found to be disseminating false news.
In August, the president ratified an anti-cybercrime law empowering authorities to order the blocking of websites that publish content considered a threat to national security.
Amnesty International criticized both legislations in a July statement saying they "give the state near-total control over print, online and broadcast media."
Egypt has regularly jailed journalists as part of a crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president.
Nairobi, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — At least three people were killed, including a child, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside the compound of a district headquarters in Somalia's capital, police said Sunday.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the bomber tried to speed through a checkpoint but was stopped by security forces, prompting him to detonate the vehicle near the gate of Howlwadag district headquarters.
He said another four people were wounded, mostly young students at a nearby Islamic school. Officials warned there could be more casualties as the blast pulled down nearby buildings including a mosque.
"They have literally failed to achieve their goal of inflicting maximum casualties," Hussein said, accusing the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab of carrying out the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, which shattered a period of calm in seaside Mogadishu. The Somalia-based al-Shabab often targets the capital with bombings, including a truck bombing in October that left at least 512 people dead.
Somali troops are meant to take over the Horn of Africa nation's security in the coming years from an African Union force but concerns about their readiness remain high. The U.N. Security Council recently voted to delay the reduction of troops in the AU force from October to February and the target date to hand over security to Somali forces to December 2021.
Cairo, Sep 2 (AP/UNB) — Egypt said Sunday that archeologists have unearthed one of the oldest villages ever found in the Nile Delta, with remains dating back to before the pharaohs.
The Antiquities Ministry said the Neolithic site was discovered in Tell el-Samara, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) north of Cairo. Chief archaeologist Frederic Gio said his team found silos containing animal bones and food, indicating human habitation as early as 5,000 B.C.
That would be some 2,500 years before the Giza pyramids were built.
In recent years, Egypt has touted discoveries in the hopes of reviving tourism after the unrest that followed its 2011 popular uprising.