Botswana: High Elephant Mortality Worrisome

Maun — The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism is investigating the cause of death of 275 elephants in some villages in the Okavango Panhandle.

Elephants Protection Society has also expressed a concern about the deaths of elephants at Seronga and Eretsha in the Okavango Sub-district.

In an interview with BOPA following the discovery of the elephant carcasses, the organisation's founder and chairperson, Mr Oaitse Nawa revealed that the number of dead elephants was disturbing, especially that the cause had not been established.

He suspected that the elephants could have drank poisoned water from the surrounding ponds, noting that poachers use sophisticated strategies.

He was suspicious that the poachers could have sent scavengers that went around collecting tusks of dead elephants to poison the water sources.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks, however, ruled out the possibility of the poachers' hand in the death of elephants because it was reported that all carcasses were found intact, except two, which were each found with one tusk missing.

Mr Nawa, who is also a professional guide and expert in conservation, called on the relevant authorities to fast-track the sample testing exercise so that they could act swiftly to protect the animals as they contributed meaningfully to the growth of the tourism industry.

Without urgent action to save the species, he said elephants could disappear from the wild within a single generation.

Going forward, he underscored the need for the government to involve the community in an effort to promote conservation, noting that if the community could be given the responsibility and ensure they fully benefitted from natural resources, such incidents could be curbed.

Currently, he said the communities were demoralised as they were not benefiting from the tourism industry, while on the other hand, wildlife, especially elephants, were posing a direct and recurring threat to their livelihoods and safety.

Mr Nawa said issues of human/wildlife conflict were rife in the Ngamiland region and stated that his organisation was established to ensure harmony between elephants and the people.

The organisation, he said, aimed to create a pleasant environment between the elephants and human beings through donation of chill pepper and plants to farmers.

He said they also embarked on conservation education and awareness walks in the jungle to encourage communities to become ambassadors of their environment and to understand the behaviour of animals, especially elephants, which caused havoc in the ploughing fields.

"We teach them management options of human/wildlife conflicts such as how to chase elephants and how to react when they get irritated and charge.

Elephants are easy to manage as they behave like cattle in that they tread the same route over and over," he added.

The Elephants Protection Society was established in 2017 and was registered last year with the main objective to promote co-existence between elephants and the community by enhancing the protection of elephants, educating the community about the value of elephants and other animal species.

It also encourages the communities to act against poaching and other actions that may bring elephants to extinction.

Meanwhile, the regional wildlife officer, Mr Dimakatso Ntshebe recently revealed, in an interview, that they had not yet established the cause of the elephants' deaths.

He said they had sent samples to South Africa and the US for testing, while some tests were done locally.

He said the department had ruled out anthrax as the cause of death.

Mr Ntshebe also confirmed that so far, out of the 275 registered deaths, only two carcasses were found with missing tusks.

He implored communities to continue reporting any elephant carcasses, adding that they should also refrain from consuming the meat of animals whose cause of death was unknown as it could be detrimental to their health.

Source : BOPA

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