Recent sightings of elephants in the Kweneng and Kgatleng areas is an indication of the worsening impacts of climate change that cause elephants to move to different areas, particularly towards the south in search of food and water.
The Botswana Elephant Management and Action Plan 2021-2026 indicates that as Botswana experiences extreme changes in temperature and precipitation under global warming scenarios, it is anticipated that these changes will impact wildlife conservation.
According to the document, climate change is causing the frequency, severity, duration and spatial extent of droughts and it is anticipated that water dependent species such as elephants will seek water in areas where humans are practising agriculture.
The competition for limited water resources is responsible for escalating conflicts between humans and elephants. The impacts of elephants on susceptible vegetation will likely be amplified by climate change, the document states.
Recognising the value of its abundant wildlife resources, Botswana has set aside 17 percent of the land for wildlife in protected areas; National Parks and Game Reserves. However, because rainfall is seasonal and patchy, many wildlife populations, including elephants are nomadic and utilise habitat that is outside the protected areas, including 23 percent of wildlife management areas, which means that cumulatively Botswana has allocated 40 percent of its land to mass wildlife conservation but as resources stretch, wild animals, particularly elephants, are moving from those areas in search of food and water.
Botswana's elephant population has risen significantly in the past few years to a reported more than 130 000, according to the Department of Wildlife - which is the world's largest elephant population.
Currently, the elephant census is underway in the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). The survey began on August 22, 2022 and is scheduled to be completed by November 30, 2022. The survey will cover Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
A press statement from KAZA indicates that as things stand, aggregated figures from the five KAZA members are that there are 220 000 elephants in the region in an area of 520 000km.
"This figure represents about half of the remaining savanna elephants found in Africa," it reads.
The survey will also seek to understand the elephants' migration patterns across countries, and factors such as climate change in the survival of the elephants.
Director of Wildlife and National Parks Kabelo Senyatso told the media that Botswana will carry out its own survey, using the same methodology as that used within the KAZA TFCA landscape. He noted that this exercise would aid decision-making relating to elephants outside the KAZA TFCA landscape.