It has the largest elephant population estimated at a number between 130 000 and 180 000 elephants
The director of conservation organization, Elephants Without Borders, Mike Chase, says currently Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population estimated to number between 130 000 and 180 000 elephants.
Chase said this at the just ended Botswana Travel & Tourism Expo in Kasane where he further revealed that the country was now home to 30% of Africa’s elephants.
“Chobe has the world’s highest elephant densities, so this makes Kasane an ideal location to study elephants and monitor their cross-border movements. What our aerial survey and satellite telemetry date tells us is that the elephant range within Botswana has expanded by 40% in the past 10 years,” he said.
He said elephants are seeking out new habitats, because they have been displaced by increasing human population, poaching and land use changes in neighboring countries. He further revealed that the name Elephant Without Borders was derived from their research. “I began my study during a time of peace for elephants. Angola had just ended its 30-year civil war. A war where approximately 100 000 elephants were killed for their ivory and to fund Jonas Savimbi’s rebel army,” Chase explained
The elephants that survived the war were thought to have fled to the safety and security of Botswana. Elephant Without Borders together with collaboration of neighbouring countries and governments introduced elephant corridors in the hope that elephants would once again have safe passage to their ancestral grounds.
“Our hallmark satellite movement study revealed that Botswana’s elephants started to move across international borders. An elephant present in Botswana in the evening, was very often recorded to be in Namibia, Zambia or Angola by morning,” he revealed.
These long-distance movements were noticeable and showed immense promise and hope for the future of the African elephant. They recorded the largest ever elephant home ranges with the average home range size being 2500 sq km, EWB satellite collared elephant have moved over 32 000sq km, with some of our elephants walking a 1000 km a month.
“During this successful trans-border migratory period, we recorded Botswana’s refugee elephants moving back to SE Angola and repopulating their ancestral homeland,” Chase said further adding, “Unfortunately as a result of the increase in poaching, these cross border movements have reduced by 85%. Elephants no longer embark on these epic trans boundary migrations and in recent times elephants have once again sought refuge and as a result are more resident within Botswana.”
Botswana is now seen as the international custodian of the African elephant. The country’s commitment to stop the illegal ivory trade, up-listing elephants to Appendix One at the recent CITES convention and a new Botswana Government Policy to improve the welfare of elephants in captivity- serve as an attraction to a growing tourism market that are conscious of supporting and visiting a country with sound environmental policies.