Botswana – People Of The Okavango Don’t See Elephants As Gentle Giants

Discussion in 'Articles' started by NamStay, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. NamStay

    NamStay AH Fanatic

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    Mmegi (Botswana)

    People who actually live with Earth’s largest mammal. This is the story of over 16,000 people from 15 settlements in the eastern Okavango Delta panhandle who are trapped between a river and over 18,000 elephants. Mmegi Staffer THALEFANG CHARLES writes from Seronga

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    SERONGA: Two days after the World Elephant Day on August 12, just after the worldwide thumb activists stopped tweeting their beautiful elephant images and messages calling for the protection of the last remaining gentle giants, an elephant killed a man near Gunotsoga in the Ngamiland, east of the Okavango Delta panhandle.

    This is a story of the area that is popularly known as Overseas in Botswana. It is dubbed Overseas because of its remoteness – to access the area involves either crossing the river with a ferry at Mohembo or flying in.

    This remote eastern side of the Okavango Delta, an area of about 8,000 square kilometres is home to over 16,000 people who are living with just over 18,000 elephants. It is one of the unique places in the world, where elephants outnumber people.

    The people of the area are battling to learn to live amongst the growing population of elephants, although at times it feels in vain, like this week when they have to bury another victim of an elephant trampling.

    The entire area has no tarred road, even though it has some of the country’s most scenic villages. Everyday the people observe an elephant curfew and seek refuge in their homesteads made out of letlhaka or river reeds. After sunset herds of elephants come from inland past the villages to the river.

    Standing by the Ngarange riverside watching the mighty Okavango River stretching wide as far back as the eye can see or the beautiful highgrounds of Sekondomboro overlooking the evergreen river plain are special sights. And it is clear from all the villages lined along the scenic river why the people decided to settle there. The area is incredibly beautiful and the perennial mighty river is a source of life to almost all the living creatures around the area.

    On this side of the river, just after the Mohembo Ferry is the village of Mohembo East. It is the first settlement in Overseas in the NG11. In there Kgosi Mothohelo begins with complaints of too many elephants. He says, “Most of the elephants that are troubling us are from a park [Mahango Game Park] in Namibia. They destroy our crops, especially at Kutakae along the border”.

    Mothohelo suggests that the government should provide wildlife guards to camp around Kutakae during the farming season so that they could assist in driving the elephants away from their farms.

    Twenty kilometres from Mohembo East past Kauxwi and Xakao is the village of Sekombondoro. There Kgosi Mbindira Matabo reveals that they too have many elephants. Matabo suggests that hunting tenders of elephants should be brought back to control their growing population. He also recommends that government should increase the number of game wardens in the area during the farming season.

    Kgosi Keemetse Johane from Ngarange says an elephant attacked and nearly killed a person in April this year and the incident has sent shockwaves in the village.

    “We are now living in fear. We can’t go and look after our cattle or travel to our lands, which are far from the village because we are scared of elephants,” Johane says.

    He requested the government to speed up the compensation process after wildlife damages and find ways that the people would realise the benefit of the wildlife so that they do not see them just as dangerous beasts that are hazardous to their lives.

    After Ngarange is the village of Mokgacha, located at an area with beautiful big trees and there, Kgosi Joshua Gwexa also complains about the elephants.

    He says, “Here the elephants are so many that during the ploughing season we did not plant anything because of the many elephants in the area. After sunset we do not go out at night. So we support the lifting of the hunting ban because we feel it might help with the elephants’ movement”.

    The village of Seronga is located at the end of the panhandle as the Okavango River transforms into a delta. Seronga is the largest village in the area and its leader Kgosi Maeze Maeze holds major influence in Overseas. Kgosi Maeze says the elephant population in the area is threatening the existence of other species.

    “There are many elephants here and they have destroyed the vegetation. Our goats and small wild animals are under threat because there is not enough grass for eating and hiding. They are out of control,” Maeze reports. “The people are not cultivating crops because of the elephants and they now rely on government destitute programmes although they are able and capable to feed themselves.”

    The Seronga chief also welcomed the move to lift the hunting ban saying it would assist in controlling of the elephant population in their area.

    From Seronga, the road follows the Okavango spillway heading towards Linyanti area. The first settlement on this road is Gunotsoga. Kgosi Gakegane Saoxo of Gunotsoga says they love elephants but they are now just too many. “We want them here. They make our land beautiful and that is also why our grandparents lived here, but they are too many and that is problematic. We want to remain with a manageable number so the government must figure out how to do that, even with hunting it would help us,” Kgosi Saoxo states.

    Kgosi Boitshwarelo Mosenyegi from Eretsha says some days the elephants do not even leave the village throughout the day.

    “As we speak now, there are elephants in the middle of the village. People can’t access the river to fetch water because they are afraid of elephants. Right now they got the small calves and they are extremely dangerous and we live in fear. So the government must find a way, whether through hunting or otherwise to reduce the numbers in our area,” Kgosi Mosenyegi argues.

    After Eretsha is a village of Beetsha where Kgosi Bonang Karundu also reiterated other chiefs’ suggestions of finding a way to reduce elephants in the area.

    Kgosi Karundu says, “We’ve got a lagoon in the village and the elephants drink here, which poses serious risk to many people. Some of these elephants are very aggressive as they attack people without any provocation”.

    Another village elder from Beetsha, Marota Moriri suggested that elephants should be sold to other countries because they are just too many and are unmanageable in their area.

    An elephant biologist based in the area, Dr Anna Songhurst of Ecoexist Project differs with the people’s reports of over-population of elephants. She reports that from their surveys of NG11 there are about 18,000 elephants. She argues that the assumption that there are too many elephants is not based on scientific fact, but it is mainly due to “more people encountering elephants”.

    “I wouldn’t say there are too many elephants in the area. And I wouldn’t say that the current numbers are unsustainable,” notes Songhurst.

    Songhurst suggests that the best solution is to create big movement corridors across the borders of Botswana, Namibia and Angola.

    Anthropologist at Ecoexist Project, Dr Amanda Stronza who has been working with communities in the area to find solutions to co-exist with elephants says, “to ensure a future for elephants, we must partner with people to find solutions to human-elephant conflict and wildlife crime”.

    “The world loves elephants, but who are the people that bear the costs of living with elephants? It’s people here in Botswana. People here experience relatively few benefits from elephants, and we talk a lot in our project on finding ways for the people to benefit from elephants,” says Stronza.

    “If you care about elephants, the best thing is to support the people that live with elephants,” she challenges all elephant lovers.


    Source: https://africasustainableconservati...okavango-dont-see-elephants-as-gentle-giants/
     
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  2. IvW

    IvW AH Elite

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    They need support in the way of 375 H&H and bigger...
     

  3. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I'd be happy to help take a few big bulls out.
     
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  4. Scrumbag

    Scrumbag AH Enthusiast

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    As soon as that ban gets lifted, the better!
     
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  5. vancewalker007

    vancewalker007 AH Senior Member

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    So if the ban gets lifted lets do some quick math on what benefit could come to these folks.

    Intially:
    18000 elephants
    Assume half are females - 9000
    Assume half of those are breeding age - 4500
    Assume most of the 4500 have 1 baby in a year - 4000
    Off take 1K by hunting, Bulls (especially troublesome or very old ones) and Tuskless females
    You'd still have a net increase initially for the herd, which once the money was flowing, could be managed through science

    Assume a hunt runs 60K that's 60mil large that could be put back into the area for all kinds of improvement, schools hospitals water wells. Plus the meat from a 1000 elephants would be made available. Local people could run the hunting operations so all of the money except for some likely taxes would go back into the community. The other good effect might be that the elephants disperse some what giving the local people some much needed relief. I know these numbers are speculative but it puts it into some perspective. Some of the money should also go into biological monitoring/study of the elephants so the hunting quotas could be adjusted as needed. Some years more females may need to be taken etc.

    Just some crazy thoughts from someone who's seen this model work so well in the US since it was put into place in the 1920's. Whitetails anyone ...
     
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  6. mrpoindexter

    mrpoindexter AH Fanatic

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    Vance, while I agree with you, I am not certain the 1,000 offtake would be sustainable. Within 18 years, you would have culled the entire herd aside from new animals being born. Even if they were all born to keep the herd intact, we are not shooting juveniles and the average age of elephants should not be 9 years old, which is how it would approach if you had an annual offtake of about 5.6% - that could be sustainable for impala, but not an animal that grows much slower like elephant.

    I would guess the sustainable offtake would be closer to 1/2 of 1% and that would be more like 100 elephants per year (excluding PAC hunts). Trophy fees would likely be $10k per elephant, which would generate about $1 million in trophy fees. The rest of the cost of the hunt would be for the outfitter and his crew/staff. $1 million per year actually can go a very long way in Africa. The meat would likely be 300,000# or more. At just 16,000 people, that is about 19lbs of meat per person per year (assuming only 3,000# of recoverable meat per elephant). Assuming that any safari operations in the area would hunt more than just elephant and that meat would also be donated to locals, it could happen to see maybe 30lbs of meat per person and possibly a couple million in local revenues just in trophy fees. Pay for staff, tips, etc would end up bringing in perhaps another half million of hard cash currency directly to locals and still have a very robust elephant population.
     

  7. IvW

    IvW AH Elite

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    Let's start with the right figures before we try and get to conclusions or answers. I suggest you recalculate as the latest elephant population in Botswana is estimated at 150 000 individuals.(This is a conservative estimate as it is probably closer to 200000), You could not make a dent in this by taking off 100 per year!

    Kruger is at about 20000 and only has a sustainable capacity of about 8500 elephant.

    1% would put you at 1500 and as you state 1/2 of 1% that would take you to 750 per year. Yes this would be across the board bulls and cows and not only trophy bulls.

    Start with the right figures to end up with the right answers.

    Botswana is way over their carrying capacity for elephant and so is the Kruger national park.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
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  8. mrpoindexter

    mrpoindexter AH Fanatic

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    The numbers we were discussing were for this locale, not the entire country. Each area should have its quota based on local populations.
     
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  9. Pondoro

    Pondoro AH Fanatic

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    I have seen a 200.000 - 207.000 estimate in Bots...Lord knows the right number...but the population is waay over sustainable...54.000 has been mentioned as a sustainable number..

    I have credible info that hunting will be opened on elephant and perhaps buffalo but it remains to be seen how...I hope it will be done in a way that will benefit the local population..to make them once again view the animals as something positive..
     
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  10. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    I agree whole heartedly.
    Help them with some much needed crop protection, meat and money from the hunting fees .

    Botswana is not a zoo for foreign scientists to go play while locals are killed, livings and property destroyed.
     
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  11. vancewalker007

    vancewalker007 AH Senior Member

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    I was just guessing at initial numbers. As I stated some of the money could be used to support scientific analysis of the herd on a regular basis so logical fact based adjustments could be made to the hunting program.
     

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