Ecologist Dr Mike Chase has said there is need to establish safe corridors between protected areas to allow elephants to move freely as another way of controlling the ever increasing wildlife elephant populations.
Speaking in an interview at the Abu Camp station in the Okavango Delta, Dr Chase said there is also need to come up with conservation management plans such as counting, collaring, tracking, and figuring out the migration routes of elephants.
“With the help of Dr Patson, we collared 120 elephants. This helps us to monitor the movements of elephants and what their habitat needs are, which areas we need to follow, migration pattern; where we need to follow them,” he said.
Dr Chase who is against the culling of elephants as a solution to control over population said elephants are important in the country for ecotourism. At the same time, Dr Chase acknowledges that increase in the number of elephants creates elephants/human conflict.
He said according to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks there are more than 200 000 herds.
“We have to address the problem head on. A lot of elephants are refugees. Some of them migrated from Angola into Botswana during the civil war at the time of Jonas Savimbi,” he explains.
“We have to allow them to move to the north,” he said.
Using sophisticated satellite telemetry with aerial surveys, Dr Chase says there is need to address conservation issues; collaring, tracking, and monitoring migration patterns of elephants.
On how the human/elephant conflict could be addressed, Dr Chase is of the view that the use of chilli-pepper has also proved that it could be a solution to human/elephants conflict.
On the increase in poaching, Dr Chase is quick to acknowledge that this is a serious challenge to the country.
“We are losing elephants at a fast rate and as custodians of elephants we are really concerned, we have to conserve these species,” he says.
Dr Chase also says the reason why it is not easy for the government to win the war against poaching is because Botswana is a vast country; hence resource or anti poaching units are not enough to cover that.
Dr Chase revealed that Abu, a 500,000-acre game camp is now owned, in part, by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.
“He just fell in love with the country and chose to invest in Botswana. Realising how important wildlife tourism is in Botswana, we are privileged to be funded by him. Elephants are a symbol for conservation,” Dr Chase points out.
Citing the transfrontier conservation area that includes Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Dr Chase the issue of conserving elephants calls for cooperation between neighbouring countries.
“Let’s collar the elephants and reduce the number of elephants by letting them to move up north,” he says. He observes that some of the elephants that they had collared had not moved outside the borders.
“We have created a corridor for them to move to the north but they are not doing so. Fences are significant barriers. Government had taken the fence down, stretching 30 kilometres, at the Kwando corridor, which is a border between Botswana and Namibia. But they should have taken it down at least for some 100 kilometres,” said Dr Chase.
His dream is to see a number of Batswana students enrolling for Masters Degree in Wildlife ecology.
“The challenge that I have is finding Batswana who want to work in the field. But I have not given up and I m determined that next year I will have three Batswana students here,” he says.
According to Dr Chase, the vast 180,000 hectare (450,000 acre) private and exclusive Abu Concession is the best research camp in Africa.
“We can’t have a facility like this and then fail to put it to good use. One should good grades in environmental Sciences to do Masters in Wildlife and ecology,” he said.