Saturday, June 15, 2024

Is Botswana sending 8000 elephants for slaughter?

Botswana’s decision to gift the Angolan government elephants has been described as tantamount to sending the animals to a doomed fate, death. This is given the rampant poaching in southeastern Angola that has driven wildlife away, a conservation expert has said.

The decision to donate 8000 elephants to Angola has raised questions about the practicality of the exercise and the thought process behind it.

Botswana’s high population of elephants has been attributed to the country’s impressive conservation efforts that have largely kept poachers at bay. Elephants within the region have gravitated towards Botswana because of the relative safety.

Angola has not been famous for its conservation efforts, with the country’s wildlife population wiped out by rampant poaching and animal migration. Past elephant surveys have painted a gloomy picture of the situation in Angola, with the country’s elephant carcass ratio hovering above 30 percent (30%).

Carcass ratio is the number of dead elephants observed during survey counts as a percentage of the total population. Carcass ratios greater than eight percent (8%) are considered to be a strong indication of a population in grave danger.

Botswana has in the past raised concerns about initial plans by Angola and Namibia to use the Okavango waters for irrigation and hydroelectric power production, which activities could seriously harm the Okavango Delta, a major habitat for the region’s elephant population.The Cuito River, one of the channels that feed into the Delta, has faced constant threats of proposed human activities from the Angolans, who have never prioritized wildlife conservation as a vehicle for economic diversification.

Botswana has in the past offered far fewer elephants to Angola and Mozambique, but nothing has ever materialized because of the exorbitant costs involved in translocating a few hundred elephants. It remains unclear how the government now intends to translocate 8000 giants.

“It would cost hundreds of millions of Pula to relocate such a vast number of elephants. These are funds that could be better spent on other more pressing conservation efforts in Botswana,” says one conservationist who preferred to remain anonymous.

“To send 8000 elephants to Angola is wrong on so many levels. If their parks are good, safe habitats for elephants, why aren’t there more already?”

The conservation expert also questioned what would stop the elephants from simply returning to Botswana after relocation.

Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Dr. Kabelo Senyatso referred our inquiries to the Office of the President (OP), who he said were working on releasing information on how the translocation will be carried out.

The decision to donate elephants to Angola comes at a time when the four KAZA (Kavango/Zambezi transfrontier region) countries are yet to release the findings of the 2022 elephant census.

In October 2022, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Paul Allen Family Foundation, and other funders launched an elephant aerial survey of the KAZA region in parts of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

WWF said the “survey will provide baseline data on the numbers and distribution of elephants in KAZA to help inform the development of collective policy and practice among the KAZA partner countries for the long-term conservation, protection, and management of Africa’s largest contiguous elephant population. Its results will also provide crucial information to update scientific databases.”

The results were expected to have come out by July 2023. Dr. Senyatso said, however, that the KAZA secretariat would soon advise on the release date for the report.

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