Botswana — which is home to the world’s largest elephant herd at 131 909 — could be invaded by a large number of wild elephants following chronic water problems in neighbouring Zimbabwe. The warning from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, states that Botswana communities should expect a spike in human wildlife conflict (HWC) as a large number of elephants are currently making the long voyage to Botswana in search of water.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), one of the top wire services in the world, head of corporate communications at Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Tinashe Farawo, claimed that water shortages in Hwange National Park, the country’s largest natural reserve, are driving elephant migration into Botswana.
Farawo told AFP that a significant number of elephants have entered Botswana, which suggests that more animals will enter settlements and generate conflict between people and wild animals over limited resources like water. “Many animals have and are moving from Hwange National Park into Botswana,” he tells AFP, adding that “It means more animals are going to invade communities, people competing for water with animals.”
The migration occurs at a time when the government of Botswana has expressed concern over the encroachment of wildlife into human habitats, which places stress on limited resources and may have deadly consequences. In his 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi declared his commitment to protecting Batswana and resolving the conflict between people and wildlife in spite of objections from numerous international environmental organisations.
“We continue to manage human-wildlife conflict which we take very seriously. To address this, Government employs various co-existence strategies through Community Based Natural Resources Management programmes. These are community owned income generating projects that allow them to be part of the human-wildlife conflict solutions,” said President Masisi in his 2022 SONA.
Among other things, Farawo told AFP that although wildlife migration from Hwange National Park to Botswana is common and expected, it began earlier than usual this year in August. “I can’t quantify how many elephants have moved whether its hundreds or thousands but it has been a lot,” he tells AFP.
What is likely to make the situation perilous for communities which coexist with wildlife in Botswana is that the country is home to the largest elephant herd in the world with 131 909 elephants, as well as the fact that 58% of the elephants in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) were discovered to be in Botswana. This will result in an increase in human wildlife conflict as there will be additional stress on water resources and wildlife habitats.
A study conducted by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) indicated that elephant attacks are more likely to result in fatalities. “Most deaths in HWC incidents in Botswana are by elephants, while the other animals were responsible for most injuries,” states the working paper titled “Predictors of Human-Wildlife fatalities: Insights from Botswana.”