Nine elephants have been killed in Botswana after knocking down overhead powerlines. Picture: AP

Gaborone - Nine elephants were electrocuted in central Botswana in a freak accident near the village of Dukwi.

The elephants died after they knocked down overhead power lines while jostling to drink water from a leaking pipe supplying water to villagers, the director of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo, told Reuters.

“Investigations are still at a preliminary stage, but what we have discovered so far is that the elephants were helping themselves to water from a damaged supply pipe. The elephants  were electrocuted when they knocked down power lines, which fell into the gushing pool of water,” he said.

Botswana has an elephant population of between 150 000 and 200 000, depending on the migration season. Elephants normally live in the wild but often move near human settlements in search of water, in Botswana, a generally arid country. 

The WWF says despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still under threat, they are being poached in large numbers. Tens of thousands of are killed each year for their tusks. 

The ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery to be sold to countries in the East, notably China.

The ban on international trade was introduced in 1989 by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) after years of unprecedented poaching. In the 1980s, an estimated 100 000 elephants were being killed per year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions.