Missing the point on elephants (letter)
Ian Michler
Dec 2013

In the piece recently published in The Ngami Times titled ‘A missed opportunity on elephants’ it’s patently clear that the author has completely missed the point on every level. He does not in any way understand the complexity of the elephant situation within the greater region, and neither does he know anything about the behaviour and movements of elephants.

Northern Botswana, particularly the Okavango/Moremi/Chobe region is located within the core of the far greater Kavango/Zambezi (KAZA) transfrontier conservation area. Together, the five countries that participate in the KAZA initiative carry the vast majority of Africa’s savannah elephants – possibly as high as 75% of the meta-population or over 250 000 animals. And typically, these herds will move between wet and dry season ranges on an annual basis, which means they cross the international boundaries of the member states. This movement is fundamental to their long term survival and research conducted over the past decade has clearly shown how they do this if left alone.

But recently poaching levels have been increasing, and in some areas such as the Caprivi Strip, south-western Zambia and north-western Zimbabwe, at alarming rates. With elephants being intelligent and social creatures, they have responded appropriately by curtailing seasonal movements into these dangerous areas. And with Botswana being a safe and stable environment with plenty of space and some of the lowest regional poaching rates, this core area becomes a safe haven. This happened during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s when war ravaged the surrounding states and its happening again due to the high poaching levels.

By hosting the all-important African Elephant Summit to deal with what is a continental crisis, the Botswana government is in fact playing a significant and leading role in trying to address the exact situation the author complains about. It is one thing for the author to take an opposing view, but this should never be based on a lack of understanding and misinformation.

 Ian Michler is a top specialist wilderness guide, photojournalist and naturalist, and has lived and worked across Africa for the last 22 years. Ian works with the Conservation Action Trust www.conservationaction.co.za