‘Climate Change Exacerbates Human-Wildlife Conflicts’

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The pressing effects of climate change are exacerbating the already increasing conflict between humans and wildlife, particularly elephants, Dr Keoikantse Sianga, senior lecturer in Wildlife Management at Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources has also observed.

He shares that as temperatures are bound to increase while rainfalls are going down owing to the ever-changing environmental conditions, elephants are going to struggle to get water and forage. This he said would then result in rising encounters between people and elephants as the animals in their large population would reach human settlements desperately in search of water.

This is amid the fact that human settlements have already infringed on the natural habitats of wild animals blocking their migratory routes. The presence of wildlife in human settlements is known to cause serious damage to crops, livestock, and property while in other instances often leading to injury or death for one or both parties.

Speaking during a panel discussion on ‘Evidence-Based Approaches to Elephants Conservation in Botswana’ that was held in Gaborone on Tuesday, Dr Sianga noted that climate change will not only amplify human-elephants conflict but also result in the decline of other wildlife species. 

He highlighted that some other species will struggle to get water because of the presence of elephant herds at water points. “When these elephants get access to water points they would stay there the whole day and other species will struggle to get water hence we should anticipate a lot of their population declining due to the impact of climate change,” he stressed. 

Dr Sianga added that the movement of elephants which is mainly driven by forage and surface water availability has continued to increase their conflicts with humans. The conflict, he said spread across all the seasons indicating that during the dry season, the animals focus on areas where there is permanent water.

“From our collaboration research with DWNP in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), we noticed that during the wet season the 10 collared elephants move out as far as Zimbabwe while during the dry season, they come back and settle in CKGR where there is permanent water provided at artificial water points. Some move in between CKGR and the Okavango Delta.”

Meanwhile, Dr Sianga is resolute that the offtakes of elephants as per what CITES requires remain a sustainable solution to address the increasing human-elephants conflict in Botswana.” ‘‘How much we offtake is less than what we have been authorised to harvest being 0.5%. There is not even a single time when our offtakes were about 0.5% or even closer to that,” he stressed condemning critics who argue that the country practices unsustainable means of elephant offtakes.

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