Ngamiland communities have called on government to allow hunting of elephants to reduce human wildife conflicts which are prevelant in the district.
Communities voiced out their griviences at a National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP) Workshop held in Maun recently. The purpose of the NEAP was to identify and proritise the actions that are needed to be taken to protect, manage and monitor elephant and also to provide a detailed national level plan which can be effectively implemented. Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Philip Monngae explained that the latest estimates put the Botswana elephant population at 160 000 elephants. The elephant population has grown over the last thirty years becoming the largest in Africa, and most of them roam outside national parks and game reserves. It is estimated that only about 23 percent of the population is found within parks and reserves and forest areas in the wet season, increasing to about 32 percent in the dry season.
Monngae conceded that conflicts between elephants and people are increasing as both human and elephant populations increase and expand. He said communities in parts of the country that have not had elephants are increasing coming into contact with these animals leading to damages to crops, waterpoints and fences. Consequently, government has taken a numbers of measures to reduce conflicts such as the erection of electric fences and the use of other deterrents such as chilli pepper. “Compensation for elephant damages was also increased to 100% with effect from November 2013, and this has led to the compesation bill increasing substantially over the past five years,” he said.
Poaching of elephants is reported to have also increased drastically over the last decade with the highest number of elephant killed recorded in 2011 according to statistics collected by CITES –Monitoring of illegal killing of elephant programme.
For their part the communities welcomed NEAP saying that it is high time government consult people on the management of elephants. Ngamiland communities decried that the district is the most affected by human wildlife conflicts, particularly elephants. Mod Masedi from North West Intergated Farmers Asssociation (NWIFA) welcomed consultations with communities on how to control elephants. He advised the community to guard against proposing the culling of elephants without a clear plan of how they can benefit as was the case in the past.
Bashai Masalela from Xhauxhwadi Community Trust from Phuduhudu village said they have been suffering at the expense of elephant destruction. She said elephans have destroyed the water plant erected by Water Utilities Corporation in their area, which caused acute shortage of water. She further decried that elephants are destroying their pastures andother natural resources in their area.