The human – wildlife conflict in Bobirwa is putting not only inhabitants’ lives in danger but also their livelihood due to the growing number of wild animals in the region, especially elephants. In an interview on Friday, the Deputy Director – Field Operations at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Rex Mgandla, said strategies were put in place to encourage people to learn to co-exist with wild animals in areas outside National Parks and Game Reserves. Mgandla said as the department they usually carry out wildlife census annually in regions but said it will always be a challenge in border areas where the country shares borders with other countries. He said in those areas it is quite difficult to monitor elephants’ population which the residents complain about as they terrorise them. He said they have observed that elephants would normally migrate to Botswana from Zimbabwe during the hunting period and seek refuge in Botswana where they are not disturbed. Mgandla said elephants have always co-existed with people but have been in isolation for most of the time but have recently started to be seen in areas they have never been seen before as they are less threatened.
He explained that the problem that has arisen now is that they are encroaching into people’s farms. Mgandla said at the moment it would be difficult to count the number of elephants in the region due to reasons such as migration. However as it remains, residents will have to learn to co-exists with the wild animals as the department has little but would only offer compensation in case of destruction of their crops. This year, with the ploughing season running out but with less rainfall having occurred, less fields have been tilted meaning that farmers would not be counting their losses this season. But with no fields to destroy it is most likely that elephants might attack people other assets more. Area MP for Bobonong Shaw Kgathi acknowledged human-wildlife conflict in his constituency but did not want to discuss the issue, saying the DWNP was better placed to answer. The region is one the places in Botswana where elephants and other wild animals roam freely. Aspiring MP for Bobirwa Taolo Lucas of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) says the human-wildlife situation in the region is a very serious one which will eventually leave everyone there a pauper.
Lucas said the situation is so bad that both pastoral and arable farmers are affected by this conflict. He said compensation for damages caused by wildlife is not only insufficient but take ages for farmers to be paid the compensation. According to Lucas, it is not only elephants that are causing havoc to farmers in the region but also a variety of wild animals that cause damages to crops and livestock. He regretted that laws of the country were strictly protecting wildlife which hampers efforts by farmers to take any steps against controlling them. Moreover, he said the situation will only worsen as more wildlife species are being added to a list of those that farmers cannot be compensated for if they destroy their livestock or crops. He said the conflict will also be exacerbated by the designation of certain areas such as Lepokole – a settlement located 30 km North West of Bobonong – as wildlife areas, meaning that available land for farming will be decreased as the land is given away for wildlife activities. Lucas said it is obvious that the government gives priority to wildlife and explained that where there is human-wildlife conflict; priority will always be given to wild animals.