Patriot (Botswana)

Botswana’s wildlife threatened by severe drought


SHARE   |   Tuesday, 27 August 2019   |   By Phillimon Mmeso

Stray cattle trapped in the mud as Lake Ngami dries up Solomon Tjinyeka

  • Water shortage exacerbates human/wildlife conflicts
  • DWNP races against time to provide water

Severe drought, which has affected the whole country, is threatening one of
Botswana’s economic mainstay -tourism- as rivers are drying up and
grassland shrivels.

Acting Director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Moemi
Batshabang paints a very gloomy situation, saying the drought is one of the
worst that the Southern Africa sub region has ever faced in recent years.
The drought, he said, poses a danger to both wildlife and humans especially
in the northern part of the country as it increases the human/animal
conflicts. “The greatest issue that we are facing is the drying up of the
Okavango Delta which has been providing water especially for the aquatic
animals being the hippos and crocodiles,” he said, with worry written all
over his face.

A lot of hippos were trapped in muddy waters in the Okavango delta and
rivers like Thamalakane which have dried up and the DWNP was forced to
rescue and relocate them. Batshabang said that in Tubu and Nxaraga areas
estimated 200 hippos were trapped in each area and they had to open water
wells and pump water to help them. “We had to open wells and pumped water
into some ponds and had to translocate the 80 hippos and crocodiles from
Thamalakane River to where there is water,” he said.

On why they are not translocating some of the hippos, Batshabang said that
they are territorial and moving them to another area will lead to fights
with those they find in another territory. One of the reasons he said they
are translocating the hippos and crocodiles in Maun is because they want to
protect people in the area as human life comes first.

Another area of concern for DWNP is the drying up of Lake Ngami which has
an estimated 100 hippos and Batshabang said that their team is in the area
to address the situation. ?The main challenge at Lake Ngami is the
livestock especially cattle whose population is currently standing at over
38000 and pumping water in the lake is going to be a challenge,? he

As a mitigation strategy the acting DWNP Director said that they are going
to pump water into some section of the lake from their boreholes in the
area. Though they are addressing the water situation, Batshabang said that
another worry is the shriveling of the grassland. He said they are
currently giving the hippos? supplementary food.

High Conflict Area

There have been high cases of human/animal conflict in the northern part of
Botswana leading to many casualties mostly caused by elephants. This, DWNP
boss attributed partly to the drought as elephants move into human
settlement looking for water and ultimately destroying boreholes in areas
like Sandveldt.

Elephants, which have no predators, roam widely to get their daily ration
of as much as 52 gallons (200 litres) of water and about 300 kilograms (660
pounds) of grass, leaves and twigs.  While they can provide water, the main
challenge for the DWNP is lack of grass.

On why elephants kill people, Batshabang highlighted that in most cases
they were either provoked in the past and they have sharp memory to
remember the perpetrator thus going after them. “In some instances is just
some bulls which behave in a certain way and just attack people
unprovoked,” adding that what is needed is awareness on the behavior of

He said that the pressure is very high for them to provide water for the
elephants and limit their movement to the human settlements. “The good
thing that we did in the past is to drill boreholes which we use during dry
seasons and we have now started using them,” he revealed.

He said the area that gives them a lot of problems is the Ngwasha area
along Nata/Kazungula road (A33) which he said due to the drought, poachers
now use it to poach elephants. ?We have stepped up our anti-poaching
activities to try and protect the animals because they know that most of
them are thirsty and using that to lure them,? he said.

Hunting Ban

On the contentious issue of hunting ban which has pitted the country
against some international conservationist, Batshabang said that they
expect hunting to start early September. This he said it will be done in a
very manageable way and which species to be hunted and the quota.