Botswana Grapples with Human-Wildlife Conflict on Press Freedom Day

Botswana's government disputes a report by Elephants Without Borders that the country's elephant population is stable, not growing. The report found 56 freshly killed elephants in three months, raising concerns about conservation efforts.

Bijay Laxmi
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Botswana Grapples with Human-Wildlife Conflict on Press Freedom Day

Botswana Grapples with Human-Wildlife Conflict on Press Freedom Day

As Botswana marks Press Freedom Day 2024, the nation finds itself grappling with the pressing issues of environmental crisis and human-wildlife conflict amidst its rich wildlife population. The theme of this year's Press Freedom Day, "A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis," resonates deeply with Batswana, particularly in light of the ongoing challenges posed by the country's thriving wildlife.

Why this matters: The human-wildlife conflict in Botswana has far-reaching implications for conservation efforts and the long-term survival of iconic species. Moreover, the controversy surrounding the country's elephant population highlights the need for accurate data and effective solutions to address the environmental crisis.

A recent report by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) has sparked controversy, contradicting the government's stance on the country's elephant population. The EWB report suggests that the elephant population in Botswana is not growing but remains stable, challenging the government's claim of a 6% annual growth rate. According to the report, elephant numbers have changed little since 2010, with carcass ratios increasing since EWB's first survey that year.

The report highlights that elephant mortality may be on the rise in Botswana, with 56 freshly killed elephants found in just three months. This finding has raised concerns about the sustainability of the current elephant population and the effectiveness of conservation efforts in the country.

However, the government has pushed back against the EWB report. Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Boatametse Modukanele, has rubbished the findings, citing the KAZA Elephant Survey released in August last year, which showed an increase in elephant figures. Modukanele criticized EWB's reports for being negative towards Botswana's conservation story, suggesting a calculated move to discredit the government.

"Sometimes they say their own opinions rather than what is factual," Modukanele stated. "These reports are always negative towards Botswana's conservation story. According to them, we are failing and there is no visible thing that we are doing. But the reality on the ground is that we are regarded as among the best in terms of wildlife conservation in the world."

The controversy surrounding Botswana's elephant population is not new. In 2014, the former president Ian Khama's administration issued a ban on hunting of wildlife in all controlled hunting areas in Botswana after research surveys conducted by Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders reported a decline in wild animal species. However, the ban was lifted in 2019, allowing elephant hunting to resume in the country.

Michael Chase, co-author of the EWB report and executive director of EWB, expressed concern over the recent changes in Botswana. "The recent changes in Botswana are all in a negative direction," Chase stated. "After decades of growing numbers, the elephant population is flat now. And numbers of elephant carcasses are growing, meaning that elephants may be dying at an unsustainable rate."

As Botswana celebrates Press Freedom Day, the nation finds itself at a crossroads, balancing the need for environmental conservation with the challenges posed by human-wildlife conflict. The contradictory reports from the government and conservation organizations highlight the complexity of the issue and the urgent need for accurate data and effective solutions. As the press shines a light on this pressing matter, it remains to be seen how Botswana will navigate this delicate balance and ensure the long-term survival of its iconic wildlife population.

Key Takeaways

  • Botswana's elephant population is disputed, with EWB reporting stability and the government claiming 6% annual growth.
  • EWB's report suggests elephant mortality may be rising, with 56 freshly killed elephants found in 3 months.
  • The government has rejected EWB's report, citing a 2023 survey showing increased elephant numbers.
  • Botswana's human-wildlife conflict has far-reaching implications for conservation and iconic species' survival.
  • Accurate data and effective solutions are urgently needed to address the environmental crisis.