By Gill Staden
When word started getting around that Botswana is to host an emergency African Elephant Summit on December 2-4, 2013, residents of Chobe and Ngamiland naturally started rekindling hope that finally the elephant problem is being addressed.
Looking at the provisional programme for that summit, clearly such optimism turns out to be misplaced. The emergency elephant summit is exclusively about illegaly killing of elephants and the illegal trade in ivory, and its objective is to adopt a commitment and accompanying urgent measures to that effect.
The elephant burden of over-population that Botswana carries is nowhere covered in the summit agenda. Yet the country has the highest population of African elephants in the world, with Chobe and Ngamiland being home to more than 90% of the Botswana’s 207 545 elephants.
These numbers are not only growing expotentially annually but have also surpassed the elephant habitat’s carrying capacity. As a result, elephants are expanding their range to encroach on settled areas, leading to the otherwise avoidable human/wildlife conflict.
In its report in August this year, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) rightly called for the necessity “to balance the elephants’ role as a contributor to the maintenance of biodiversity on the one hand, and ecosystem degradation on the other.”
It, therefore, comes as a shock that the Botswana government has missed this rare opportunity to include the concern of over-population into the agenda of the forthcoming emergency elephant summit. We strongly feel this issue is equally important as those of illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in ivory; and should have been included in the agenda. More....