By Desiree Otshepeng Rapula
Elephants are flooding into Botswana as refugees from violent conflict and poaching, said founder of Elephants Without Borders, Mike Chase in an interview with the Sunday Standard.
Elephant poaching in Africa is a growing problem across the continent, but particularly in countries where political conflict and violence is rife he said.
According to Chase, Botswana is feeling the impact of poaching in Africa as tens of thousands of the beasts make their way to the country to escape danger, he said he believes only around 40% of the elephants in Botswana are native to the country, while around 80 000 are “political refugees”.
Thousands of animals fled from the south-east of Angola where elephants were massacred for their ivory and for meat to feed troops during the long and brutal civil war in that country. According to Chase as peace returns to Angola, so is the native elephant population who somehow sense it is now safe to go home.
But despite this Botswana is still struggling under the burden of the refugee population:
“We are talking about an animal that eats 250kg of food a day”, he said, adding that the beasts are decimating the country’s vegetation, destroying crop fields and escalating conflicts with communities of Northern Botswana.
According to Chase the problem is not only from Angola but also neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe where poachers are forcing elephants to seek refuge in Botswana.
“We are currently losing an elephant every minute in Africa,” he said, warning that we may be seeing the highest elephant mortality rate in history.
Environment Wildlife and Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama said the government had adopted a “shoot-to-kill” policy against to poachers as a radical measure to illuminate the mass slaughter of elephants in the country.
According to Chase the real solution however is to solve political conflict in Africa. He said, based on research from his PhD on elephant migration patterns, once armed conflict and poaching in Africa are dealt with the the elephants currently roaming Botswana will return to their homelands, and Botswana will be left with a much smaller elephant population. More....