As climate change sweeps over our corner of the planet, playing havoc with rainfall and temperatures, the battle between humans and animals for survival is also heightening.
Like we said before, cattle ranchers in the west fought for rapidly declining, drought ravaged pastures with the safari industry which argued that wildlife brought revenues of a more sustainable and less fickle nature.
In those years in the north, the little yield crop farmers were expecting was imperilled by the encroachment of elephants, desperate for nourishment in a difficult year. Predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards routinely raided livestock resulting in high losses for farmers.
The interaction of wildlife and livestock also increased the threat of disease outbreaks, such as Foot and Mouth and Newcastle diseases. It is clear for many how droughts escalate the human/animal conflict, as wildlife and livestock compete for limited space and pasture. Ironically, good rains can also contribute to heightened tensions between farmers and animals. Plentiful rains obviously boost populations and survival rates of both wildlife and livestock, but there is more to the story.
In periods of drought, waterholes for wildlife are few and far between, meaning various species congregate in the few available water bodies. In periods of plentiful rain, wildlife are more spread out hunting and accessing water, often leading to more instances of contact with farmers and their reinvigorated livestock which are equally enjoying more lush pasture and
Increasingly, however, Batswana are complaining that the Problem Animal Control units around the country appear ineffectual in protecting farmers and their produce.Farmers do receive some meagre compensation for crop losses and infrastructure damage, but the opportunity costs associated can never be replaced.
It is common cause that the Problem Animal Control units are “very busy” across the country and thus, are stretched thin. In the meantime, Batswana have found themselves face to face with troublesome animals and some have taken the law into their own hands receiving heavy censure in the process.
There are no easy solutions and many attempts such as sponsoring farmers to diversify away from a reliance on agriculture, are having limited success. Other efforts have focussed on helping farmers repel wildlife without resorting to lethal methods.
Whatever the case, as the national dialogue on this continues, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect communities from the wild neighbours around them.
“Unless the local community signs up, wildlife won’t survive”
– Jochen Zeitz