Mmegi Online :: Of elephant overpopulation and desertification
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Last Updated
Monday 18 March 2019, 14:08 pm.
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Of elephant overpopulation and desertification

Botswana is one of the countries in Africa known for these giants, with their high population exploding and unmanageable but causing disharmony amongst citizens of the affected areas and government. Batswana by nature are serious conservationists and are in love with their fauna and flora.
By Correspondent Fri 07 Dec 2018, 13:32 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Of elephant overpopulation and desertification








Now due to the above topic, recently Botswana government embarked on countrywide consultations to find out as to whether the 2014 hunting ban could be uplifted or not because these giants are causing a concern.

Botswana is a landlocked country whereby elephants from neighbouring countries come here for safety. However, that increased our numbers to the point where we had no control over them as they depleted most of the resources.

Recently, I read about an issue of barren lands, soils that lost their nutrition especially the fertile and valuable soils with no nutrients in Kenya. That country’s researchers are trying to come up with remedial approaches to reverse the damage and restoration.

Though the Botswana government is holding consultations on the matter, is there any research being conducted by our institutions such as universities, government and independent ecologists, local or international NGOs to help come up with better workable approaches to address the elephant crisis, like the Kenyans? If not what is hindering the exercise?

There is this saying; “information is power”. We were taught at school that countries in tropical or subtropical regions have tall and high density of trees due to high rainfall, that they have broad canopies and these canopies cover a wide range of areas.

We learnt that they also conserve a lot of moisture that at the end brings or attracts more rain and that they also attracts big animals as their cover.

Now Botswana is in trouble. Ngamiland and Chobe, where this subtropical vegetation is found, the landscape has changed dramatically from the olden days of the mid-70s and 80s.  The vegetation found now is almost nearly all shrubs while the areas are becoming drier and drier, year after year.

This is a great threat to other species and humans, economically and through the changing of lifestyles, which will affect people’s livelihood. The main worry is how to address the ecological equilibrium and sustainability of the biodiversity and ecosystem of the mentioned regions.

The human-elephant conflict study is ongoing but at what pace and level? What positive results can we appreciate? My worry is, with what I have mentioned above, we can expect to see the whole of Botswana becoming a desert and even the drying up of rivers of Chobe and Ngamiland.

I remember between 2001 and 2005, one scientist predicted that Botswana and other southern African countries like South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe would be dry in the next 50 years. If this is true and looking at the damage inflicted by these giants, what are we saying? Are we

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saying the lifting of the hunting ban will be the answer or reducing them by selling?

The only remedy to this problem is for the Botswana government to open corridors for these giants and buffaloes though they are water borne, to use in reaching every corner of our country. They belong to every Motswana with no restrictions or no go areas of nowadays. This would boost tourism, share the pain, burden and impact experienced by the Northerners.

The giants would enjoy acacia trees in the south, while buffaloes would enjoy the vast open Kgalagadi grasslands. This will help in balancing the ecological equilibrium.

Bagaetsho visit the regions mentioned above where these giants are found in large numbers, roaming about everywhere with no control. There are almost no trees but stumps of former beautiful, tall trees in the likes of Mophane, Mowana, Mokushi, Mogotlho, Mukwa and others.

Something disheartening is if you go along the Mohembo-Gudigwa road all above mentioned tree species along the river bank have been and are being ring bucked, dying, some fallen, destroyed with no branches. To me that is a thorn in the flesh because it would take another 100 years to grow those beautiful trees to the same heights.

The more they become mature the more they become usable as they have lots of benefits. The fruit of Mowana (adansonia) has a high Vitamin C content and it produces threads from its barks that are used for producing mats and threads (megala) for mending or making fishnets. The fruit is edible as well. Mogotlho/Mokala, the acacia species, produces pods rich in proteins for cattle, small stock and other animal species.

These trees are prominent and have special physical land features for locals, safari guides, pastoral farmers, hunters and gatherers. They also store water used during dry seasons. I worked in Chobe and Ngamiland areas in the mid-70s and these areas were flourishing undisturbed. The landscapes were amazing but the flora is now slowly disappearing, becoming endangered and instinct as it no longer produce its own seeds for future generations.

CITES should open doors for Botswana to cull its giants for the purpose of managing and controlling their population.

The UN, African Union and SADC should finance those who want to research and develop remedial approaches like selling elephant meat or skin. The funds could in turn be used for conservation.

NB: Elephant meat is delicious. It is like eat-sum-more biscuits. Very good for local consumption and export.

*Gabbet Kaisara is a local social commentator

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