Batswana living alongside wildlife face a double whammy of unprecedented drought and escalating human wildlife conflict – the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has warned.
The DWNP acting Director Moemi Batshabang that Botswana faces worse drought than presently experienced which would result in an escalation of the human wildlife conflict.
Batshabeng pointed out that this was the first time in living memory that Lake Ngami and the Okavango Delta dried up at the same time and now thirsty wild animals especially elephants are invading farms looking for water.
“The whole country is drought stricken, but in the northern parts where there are large populations of wildlife, the trend is disturbing. The issue needs collaborative efforts between my department, farmers and the nation at large” he said.
“We see elephants from the west; from the Botswana border with Namibia flocking into the country in search of water. Between the border and the delta there are farmers and these animals going through these farming areas in search of water,” he said.
They are usually violent when they do not get water at watering points like at farmers’ boreholes. In frustration they destroy the farmers’ watering infrastructures. My advice would be that farmers should leave their troughs filled so that as the elephants pass by at least they can have drink and continue with their search without destroying their equipment,” Batshabang advised.
He said since 2007 there has been a record 60 deaths due to human-wildlife conflict. Of the 60 deaths, 45 are attributed to elephants’ attacks.
He pointed out that in 2019, even before the year ends, eight human lives have been lost to elephant attacks. The situation is bad but they are handling it.
Boreholes which have been drilled some years ago are being turned on to water the wildlife. Most of the 60 boreholes are in the Chobe area. These are strategically placed in animals corridors.
He said the aim was to ensure that there are no mass mortalities. Decrying the unfortunate situation where animals are stuck in the mud in Lake Ngami and Okavango Delta in their hundreds, he said they managed to transfer some of them to where there was water.
“Human safety is a priority, which is why we decided to transfer 15 crocodiles that were found in water point near BDF camp in Maun. We did the same in other places where wildlife was found roaming in wrong places to where they will not be a threat to human life,” he said.
He added that in places like Makgadikgadi where livestock is stuck together with hippos, his department will activate well points in the area. Unfortunately, the hippos that are able to go through the mud will be rescued when water goes into such wells.
The nation is advised to exercise excessive vigilance when walking through bushes as pasture is also a problem to wildlife. He said should anyone encounter problems with wildlife information should be conveyed quickly to the DWNP which is currently on high alert.
Information gathered from Department of Water and Sanitation indicates that during Q4 2018/19 water level in the Okavango River was lower compared to same period in 2017/18. Inflows started dropping drastically in October 2018 when 2.643 cubic metres of water was recorded at Mohembo while only 1.080 cubic metres was recorded since the beginning of 2019.