By Mqondisi Dube – Voice of America
GABORONE, BOTSWANA – The small town of Gobojango, 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of the capital, Gaborone, is fighting an increasing elephant problem.
Residents say they support President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to lift the ban on elephant hunting, as more than 250 of the large mammals have moved into human settlements.
Masilo Matsapa says the elephants drive people away and threaten the cattle.
“They disturb our lives because we are now forced to collect our livestock early as we are afraid of the elephants,” he said. “In the cattle posts, people have deserted, it’s only empty homes. By 4 p.m., we have rounded off the animals and they are already in the corral, so that by the time the elephants come, they do not find anyone. We wake up in the morning only to find their tracks. The elephants are too many. They should be reduced.”
Horticulture farmer Shadreck Mapetla said he was forced to abandon his trade because elephants constantly invaded his farm, and the compensation for loss of crops from the government was insufficient.
The only way to address the invasion of elephants is to reduce their numbers, he said.
“This is not a normal life. When our president … speaks about killing elephants, people refuse, but people want food from us in the village. Those who say they don’t want the elephants to be killed should come, take and keep them,” Mapetla said.
Local farmers’ association chairperson Davidson Mapetla led a march in 2017, calling on the government to act.
He said the villages gain no benefits from the elephants, as they are not within a game reserve and do not generate income from tourism.
“The only thing that sustains our village is farming, so if we don’t get farming, then we should do away with tourism,” he said. “We want to farm. Reduce the elephants to the required numbers that the government can be able to manage. That will be wise.”
Human deaths caused by elephants have increased, as the mammals move away from their historic range into human territory.
One family from neighboring Semolale is still mourning the death of their son, Balisi Sebudubudu, who was trampled to death by an elephant while out in the bush to look for a cow to slaughter during his brother’s funeral.
Critics of elephant hunting
However, not everyone supports the killing of elephants as a solution to the human-wildlife conflict.
Isabel Wolf-Gillespie runs programs to alert communities of ways to co-exist with elephants without killing them.
“I love people, I love elephants. My view will be that co-existence is something to strive for. I like the idea of looking for solutions that nurture co-existence,” she said.
In another proposed solution, Botswana’s government has offered to give some of the elephants to neighboring countries where elephant populations are in decline.