Botswanan man is working to protect elephants by turning their dung into paper

Apr 21, 2021 | News

By Xinhua

Botswana’s sweltering daily temperatures often find Botshelo Sesinyi searching perilous bushes for elephant dung.

“I need at least 50 kg of elephant dung per month just to produce paper. This depends on orders placed by our customers,” says Sesinyi, founder of Life with Elephants Project.

Because elephants mostly go near villages in the early mornings and late evenings, it’s safer to collect elephant dung during the day as it is visible, he says, noting that he is also able to see other potentially dangerous animals in the bush.

Luckily, he seldom ventures deeper into the bush as poaching, which disturbs elephant lifecycle and scares them away, is not rife in his area. “In the eastern panhandle of the Okavango Delta, more especially in Gunotsoga village where I usually collect, elephant dung is accessible at a 10-minute walking distance,” he explains.

With the elephant dung he and his team regularly collects, Sesinyi produces journals, photo albums, paper wood, gift cards and mosquito repellent.

“What influenced us to make mosquito repellent was the indigenous knowledge from our home village of Gunotsoga. Growing up, we watched adults use elephant dung to repel mosquitoes. We have since developed and modernized the concept through our own research,” he says.

Established in 2018, his Life with Elephants Project also sensitises people on the importance and benefits of coexisting with elephants. For Sesinyi, this was important as locals only viewed elephants as dangerous animals that threatened their lives, devoured their farm produce, vandalised their water sources and terrorized their domestic animals, in their quest to survive Botswana’s climate change induced droughts.

“We also teach villagers to make these products and make a living out of elephant dung. In the northwest part of Botswana we have trained groups at Kaputora village and women at Elephant Heavens in Shorobe village,” says Sesinyi.

The Life with Elephants Project has since employed three people and has five part-time employees that assist with collecting dung. Had it not been for the COVID-19 global pandemic that shut down the tourism industry, Sesinyi believes the project would have expanded by now, proving that it is possible to not only coexist with, but to benefit from the presence of elephants.

“Our products are mostly bought by safari companies which use them in their camps. The years 2020 and 2021 have been bad for us though as the tourism sector has been non-operational, meaning no business for us,” expounds Sesinyi.

Moving forward, his aspiration is to redress the direct and indirect effects of elephants on socio-economic development, the environment, and ecosystems, while continuing to teach locals about environmental care, and about making a living out of elephants and their waste.

“We will produce resource books that teach about elephant-human relations, and wildlife (elephant) management,” says Sesinyi.

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