FRANCISTOWN: Large herds of elephants continue to strike fear at Sowa Township as their numbers seemingly rise by the day. Besides straying on to the major roads, the vegetation of mainly mophane trees continues to suffer.
The elephants have come in large numbers, which is intolerable to humans.
The vast mophane woodland in the 20 kilometres stretch of road leading to Botswana Ash bears the scars of the damage by the largest land mammal on earth, the elephant.
Large mophane trees along the road are literally down in numbers as by nature, elephants hardly spare the vegetation along the path they feed in.
Now with a fierce storm having recently ravaged the area, there is evidence of destruction to the vegetation.
The elephants have left red and yellow colours of the mophane trees in the thickets along their path.
In their quest to find water, elephants tend to destroy almost everything along their path especially close-knit thickets that do not support their movement.
The jumbos have since become a menace, particularly in Sowa where their numbers have reportedly been growing. The same applies to the neighbouring rural areas of Dukwi, Nata, Gweta and others within the vicinity of the township.
In the past, it was common to spot elephants in the outskirts of the township, especially near the Water Utilities Corporation water storage tanks where they benefited from the water leakages.
Just in small numbers attracting residents to take pictures. Not any more. The residents are no longer attracted to the jumbos, as they are scared for their lives.
There are reports that during the dry season, the jumbos had in the past run down the school fence at Flamingo private school and left a trail of destruction in their wake in a desperate search for water.
Now, the elephants have a tendency of stubbornly blocking the passageway of road users, striking fear on motorists. It is impossible to predict with precision what is going on in the mind of an elephant or any wild animal for that matter.
Just recently, Yours Truly encountered a ‘road block’ manned by four large elephants with one of them trumpeting at the top of its voice and sending chills down the spines of road users as it advanced.
To those in the know, the trumpeting is a mix signal of excitement, aggression and distress.
That elephant in particular, left me confused as it was just very early in the day and the herd was not budging.
I felt a sense of relief as minutes later it leisurely crossed the road.
As the elephant numbers continue to rise, it has since affected even the socialisation of the residents especially those who are in the habit of jogging by the roadside.
A risk alert was recently issued to the residents to be cautious as the population of elephants continues to rise in the area.
“A number of elephants have been seen along the main road towards the mine, especially early in the morning and late evenings,” screamed a notice addressed to Sowa residents.
The risk alert urged the residents to be extra cautious when driving to and from work as well as to adjust the timing and distance from Sowa Town when on their road exercise routines.
A promise was however, given that, “efforts are being made to repel these elephants away from this area”.
“The truth is that an elephant is a big animal and therefore a threat to people. Where there are people, elephants will definitely pose a threat,” he said.
He appealed to the residents to be on red alert especially during dry seasons, as the elephants’ search for water will lead them to encroaching on human dwellings.
Whilst he holds a view that human beings have to adapt to live with elephants within the same environment, Maphane warned people against too much familiarisation with the animals as it may prove fatal.
“Yes, people have to be very cautious as elephants continue to increase in number,” said Maphane indicating that these animals can pick a conflict out of the blues.
Maphane is worried by the reality that herds of elephants have been spotted roaming near the Kgotla, the junior secondary school and a number of offices, which can be nasty, especially when people interfere with their lives unintentionally.
“They roam the township and although there are no reported incidents of human-elephants conflicts yet, it can happen in the future and I want to plead with residents to exercise extra caution.”
Maphane said the elephants are on trail of water that they desperately need at all costs from the pans in Sowa and even from the sewer ponds.
“In the past, the desperate elephants used to come during dry seasons and return to the Chobe region, but now, they are here to stay and they don’t seem to be planning to go away any time soon,” said Maphane, adding that people should quickly learn to live with the jumbos without any conflict.
Francistown-based senior wildlife warden who identified herself as Masabase indicated that when the elephant population started rising in the Sowa area, they addressed the residents through a Kgotla meeting to prepare them to live with elephants.
“Through our outreach programmes, we reach out to these localities and help people to tolerate these animals in an endeavour to smoothen the human-elephant relations,” said Masabase before hanging up insisting that she wanted a questionnaire.
Nata-Gweta MP, Paulson Majaga is a frustrated man as he has been receiving reports of elephants-humans conflict especially during the dry season when the animals invade dwellings in search of water.
In a recent interview, the MP said his constituents were no longer enjoying the use of their boreholes as elephants have gone on the rampage destroying water tanks and reservoirs trying to quench their thirst.
“Although we don’t have specific numbers of elephants in my constituency, I can tell you that the numbers are fast growing to worrying levels as evidenced by the level of destruction of the thickets in my constituency,” Majaga declared worriedly.
He said the recent incident of an elephant that fell into a borehole in Gweta is telling evidence of the desperation of the jumbos that continue to stray into the villagers’ boreholes creating an unnecessary conflict.
He warned that elephants can pick battles and once spotted, they should be immediately reported to the relevant authorities.