CONCERNED: Mokaila (inset)

The quest to fight human-wildlife conflict is far from over as communities continue to not only lose their lives, but property too, mostly their crops.

On annual basis, a lot of human lives are lost to wild animals who find themselves struggling for control of available space.

Next week, government will convene the elephant summit where issues such as human-wildlife conflict will be part of the agenda.

The summit will be held in Kasane where wildlife and people are fighting for the available land.

Ironically, the summit comes less than two weeks after a man in Kasane was trampled to death by an elephant one morning when walking home.

This is a situation that the Minister of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila has described as tragic, one that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Residents of places that have a huge population such as Kasane have told of how they live in fear of wild animals as their lives are in danger.

Further to the Eastern part of the country, farmers walk almost empty handed after every ploughing season as they watch helplessly as wild animals destroy their crops.

According to Mokaila, the carrying capacity for elephants was put at 55 000, and fast forward to 2018, the number is estimated to have grown to over 150 000 which is considered the largest in the continent.

This is considered a worrying fact as the country has itself not grown in size, while the number of elephants has almost tripled.

“This is indicative of a massive time bomb we are sitting on called land use crisis,” Mokaila recently told group tourism at the just ended Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) annual conference held in Kasane.

Mokaila believes it is time to look at the lives of those who live adjacent to the concessions, hence the elephant summit which will, among others raise awareness about the existing human and wildlife conflict.

If government does not appear to care a bit about the human-wildlife conflict and communities feel neglected, the minister believes this will create an ‘us and them’ state.

Communities in these areas where there is large concentration are said to live in abject poverty, which in some cases is caused by human-wildlife conflict.

Even though the people continue to suffer and in most extreme cases tragically lose their lives, government has recently shown some form of commitment towards addressing the problem.

In February this year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi received a report by a committee that was appointed to review the 2014 hunting ban.

The report, among others recommended regular, but limited elephant culling.

While the president said he will present the report to his cabinet before making a decision, the recommendation has been welcomed by a large part of the community, including scholars, who believe the number of elephants has outgrown its habitat.

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