The recently launched KAZA Elephant Survey (2022) has generated crucial data that provide invaluable insights for future conservation efforts not only in Botswana but in other Kaza states of Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The survey provides crucial information about or the conservation of elephants and their habitats. The survey estimated a total of 227900 elephants in the KAZA TFCA survey area. About 58% or 131 909 of these elephants were found to be in Botswana. This study indicates that most of the elephants in the KAZA area reside in Botswana.
While the study suggests a healthy elephant population in Botswana, there is also a concern over the high elephant carcasses. That is, a total estimate of 26641 elephant carcasses were found in Botswana. Botswana reported a 12.80% carcase ratio which was the highest all-carcass ratio in the region. Douglas-Hamilton and Burrill (1991) sargue that a carcass ratio above 8% may be indicative of high mortality and warrant special attention. As a result, in the case of carcass ratio in Botswana suggests a high level of elephant mortality which warrants
There is no doubt that research should be carried out the give an explanation why there is a high carcase ration in Botswana. As such, the underlying reasons for high elephant mortality rates could be diverse. The KAZA elephant survey notes that there is likely to be a combination of several factors such as of poaching, habitat loss (i.e., elephant population compression) and associated human-elephant conflict, disease, and other natural causes that may explain the high carcase rates for Botswana.
Some have argued that Botswana lost over 300 elephants in 2020 due to some disease and this may be the reason for the high carcase ratio. Botswana by then announced that Neurotoxins produced by cyanobacteria, a type of microscopic algae, caused the elephants to die after they drank from large puddles that formed after rains. In this regard, these elephants in the Okavango areas were killed by toxin-producing cyanobacteria in waterholes.
Although several causes of the high morality are suggested, most of those are a speculation hence the need for an in-depth investigation and research. This is particularly so because for the conservation of elephants, a priority is to carry out further investigations to identify the drivers of the high mortality rates and to ensure that appropriate interventions are implemented.
High elephant mortality should be mitigated. This is because of the significant role which elephants play. This include the fact that elephants help maintain forest and savanna ecosystems for other species and are integrally tied to rich biodiversity. Elephants are important ecosystem engineers. They make pathways in dense forested habitat that allow passage for other animals. Conversely, elephants play a significant role in the tourism industry of Botswana.
Most wildlife-based tourists visit Botswana for its Big-Five which includes elephants. In addition, trophy hunting is a significant revenue earner not only to government and safari companies, but to local communities as well. In this regard, the government should come up with an initiative to investigate high elephant mortality rates and mitigate against it.