Thursday, April 9, 2020

Botswana elephants terrorise Namibia

Marauding elephants from the Chobe National Park in Botswana have forced a curfew on residents of the Caprivi and Kavango region in Namibia who fear being trampled.

Four cases of death resulting from elephant attacks have been recorded in the Caprivi area since January, and the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism has advised residents of the besieged areas to desist from wandering around at night and in the early hours of the morning to avoid being trampled by marauding elephants.

Environment officials estimate that there are over 20000 elephants in the Caprivi Region alone while in Kavango Region, the elephant population is estimated at 3000.

The recent increase in elephant attacks is attributed to the animals’ migration from the Chobe National Park in Botswana, and other parks in neighbouring Angola and Zambia.

This year, four cases of death resulting from elephant attacks were recorded in the Caprivi Region. A man in his mid-20s is recovering from injuries sustained after he collided with an elephant that was crossing his path.

Acting Chief Control Warden at Rundu, Chrispin Nkonkwena, told New Era yesterday that it is the elephant’s calving season now and they have multiplied significantly.

In 2004, the total population of elephants was estimated at 16000.

The huge number of elephants in the Caprivi Region presents Namibia with a management challenge, said Nkonkwena.

“Our communities are suffering as animals are damaging especially crops during the ploughing and harvest period,” said Nkonkwena.

He added that his office is running an awareness programme on the national radio for residents to avoid moving around from 16h00 to the early hours of the morning.

A community-based resource management team holds meetings with communities and traditional leaders informing them about the risks of moving “after hours”.

The Director of Parks and Wildlife Management in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ben Beytell, says there is an elephant management plan that allows for the creation of corridors for elephants to move to neighbouring countries such as Angola (along the Cuando River) and Botswana. These animals come in and out of Namibia.

He confirmed that there are too many elephants in Botswana and they are spilling over into Namibia. The parks and wildlife management are scheduled to carry out game counts in the Kavango Region early next month.

The management department, according to Beytell, is concerned with the number of animals in Khaudum National Park that he says has increased and the carrying capacity is strained.

He said: “It is a dry area and the high population is likely to affect other game. This might, in the long run, be detrimental to the vegetation as well.” To balance the number of elephants in these areas, the ministry has to sometimes cull and also allow nature to take its course such as starving, although Beytell says this option is not the best.

RELATED STORIES