Botswana: Fence to Address Human-Wildlife Conflict in Bobirwa

Mathathane — Kgosi Olgus Serumola of Mathathane expects the P5 million electrified 30km backline fence to address human-wildlife conflict in some parts of Bobirwa.

The backline fence that separates wildlife area from the human space stretches from the east of Mathathane, a few kilometres from Lekkerpot Junction and stretches about 30km south towards Tsetsebjwe.

The fence is public private partnership between Terra Conservancy Operations, a Botswana operating company owned by Timbo Afrika Foundation in The Netherlands, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and Mathathane community.

In an interview recently, Kgosi Serumola expressed relief that with a fully functional, electrified backline fence, the Bobirwa community would be protected against elephants that ravage their crop produce.

The fence will not only bar elephants from encroaching into human spaces, it will also stop predators from killing livestock and humans.

The Mathathane leader was upbeat that Terra Conservancy Operations, which possesses vast experience in elephant and animal management, will succeed in erecting a barrier fence that will put his subjects to rest. Kgosi Serumola's statement is backed by director of Terra Conservancy Operations, Mr Jurgen Elbertse who wrote in his brief to BOPA that, 'the foundation supports the extension of big corridors for wildlife to move freely, furthermore supports the re- introduction of endangered species and the protection of those such as leopards and rhinos.'

Before the construction of the fence, Kgosi Serumola advanced that tourism operators at both Northern and Central Tuli farms had complained about illegal activities like poaching carried out by people from neighbouring villages.

Some of these illegal activities Kgosi Serumola said were aided by the then defunct backline fence that was destroyed by elephants.

Construction of the project that is expected to take about six months is already underway.

"Just recently I arrived home at 10pm from patrolling with wildlife officers and some members of farmers committee. It was a daunting task and to my shock we found some elephants at the fields which are very close to the village," said Kgosi Serumola justifying the need for the fence. The village leader was full of praises and appreciation for wildlife officers who were subjected to scorn and ridicule by the community for failing to control elephants especially.

Following the patrol with the officers, Kgosi Serumola found that the officers were overwhelmed by the number of elephants in the area.

He opined that the numbers could be helped by ubiquitous water sources due to ongoing heavy rains.

As such, he said elephants had to push to return to wildlife management areas for watering.

For his part Mr Elbertse conceded that communities of Mathathane and neighbouring villages were severely affected by elephants and predators.

"This fence is a new design, a double fence and fully electrified and will prevent elephants from breaking the fence and major predators going through this fence. It will also stop cattle from damaging the fence and will have major effect on stopping the poaching activities in the area," Mr Elbertse wrote.

He also added that the fence will be equipped with the latest sensor technique for monitoring through Smart Parks operation and DWNP.

"The fence will be owned by the DWNP but Terra Conservancy Operations funds the construction, provides the project management and pays for the shortfall of materials," cleared Mr Elbertse whose company is also building a P500 000 daycare centre for Mathathane community as part of their corporate social investment.

During the construction, about 20 jobs were created and a maintenance team will be setup while an anti-poaching team is developed, Mr Elbertse explained.

At the site, Mr Fabian Britz, one of the Fairob Engineering directors, informed BOPA that the fence would be one the most strong and durable.

Fairob Engineering Company is tasked with erecting the electrified backline fence.

The company started work on February 16, according to Mr Britz.

Initial work included removal of the old fence, clearing of the area and excavation.

Mr Britz explained that the work would be done in phases where the first phase would be 6km that would be completed third week of March.

He said with completion of every phase the company would switch the wires live to prohibit animals from crossing to prohibited sides.

This is because farmers of fields adjacent to the wire complained about wild animals destroying their crops, Mr Britz has said.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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