Bakgatla, Wildlife authorities clash over Ruretse – bound elephant

Bakgatla authorities say a terrorising elephant was only nabbed when it was approaching the Khamas residence


An uproar has ensued between Bakgatla leadership and senior officials at the department of Wildlife and National Parks following a dispute that arose from the latter ‘s failure to act on emergency calls over a stray elephant roaming the Kgatleng area, only to allegedly act swiftly when it was heading to Ruretse-a known residence of President Khama’s family.
The Botswana Gazette has turned up information that the Kgatleng District Council Chairman, Mpho Morolong this week spat venom at the Wildlife authorities for been selective on how they reacted to Bakgatla’s calls for help after elephant tracks were discovered in their region.
A source close to the case informed this publication that the suspicions tracks were long reported to the authorities as far back as February when the elephant is thought to have first reached the region, threatening people. Authorities are said to have sat on reports and only reacted “with lightning speed” when the elephant was heading towards Ruretse- after passing behind Phakalane from Kgatleng. Ruretse is a farm formerly owned by the late President Seretse Khama located between Oodi and Tlokweng.
In a brief interview, Morolong confirmed their disappointment at the manner in which the matter was handled saying it was a classic Orwellian case of “some animals been more equal than others.”
“Our gripe was that we have long asked for an intervention with the Wildlife authorities on this issue and it was ignored on the lame reasoning that there are few or no facilities like choppers to conduct the search and verification. We lived painfully with fact and kept on raising it with the authorities to no avail. Just recently we heard that the said elephant ‘s foot-prints were seen leaving our region to Ruretse and we were shocked to hear that a chopper was seen hovering the area in a desperate search for it when all along choppers were said to be unavailable,” he said.
The Deputy Director of Wildlife and National Parks, Cyril Taolo, said he was aware of the issue but was  not willing to get into “the politics” of the case.
“What I want to comment on is that we discovered the elephant around that area which had translocated from its normal range and we have driven it to its rightful place,” he said. Taolo continued that they occasionally mount operations on elephants as they occasionally migrate.
“It is not only in Kgatleng, we do so even with other places as and when the facilities are available and the need arises,” he said, adding that the public should never tire or feel discouraged when they encounter difficulties upon reporting such cases as doing so could expose them to danger.
Efforts to reach the Khama family on whether they knew about the elephant were futile at the time of going to press.