Elephants Without Borders is leading a successful effort to stop the poaching of elephants in Botswana and is calling on the rest of Africa to join them in their efforts. Experts estimate that there are about 200,000 elephants in Botswana, while they estimate that there are between 220,000 and 400,000 in the rest of Africa.
Elephants Without Borders cite the country’s economic stability, and small human population with part of the success in stopping poachers. They also say the government’s policy to let the military deal with any poachers found for part of the success. Furthermore, the government has taken steps to build elephant proof fences around villages, and the planting of chili pepper plants around fields where farmers grow crops for part of the success. The population of elephants is growing about 5 percent each year. In some areas, the elephant population has risen to the point where wildlife managers fear their may be ramifications from overpopulation.
The effort to stop poaching has not been so successful in other countries where poachers kill about 20,000 elephants each year for their ivory tusk. Most of the ivory is illegally exported to Asia, particularly China, where it is highly prized in traditional medicine, and in works of art. Botswana has actively persecuted people who are poaching. This has created an atmosphere of fear in the people that if they do not report any suspected activity, they also will get into trouble.
Botswana government officials are calling on other African governments to help them conduct an aerial census of how many elephants there are in Africa.Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has generously offered to pay for this survey. In the first year, officials will count the elephants and other large animals in 22 countries. In the second year, officials will concentrate on arriving at a more accurate count of savannah elephants. Officials will use 18 planes to conduct the survey and plan on flying over 18,000 hours.
In many parts of Africa, the elephants try to hide unlike in Botswana where they can be seen swimming in the lakes and feeding on nearby trees. Elephants in Botswana have the largest home territory of elephants in any other country. Elephants are now being spotted in areas of Botswana where they have never been seen before including south towards the Makgadikgadi, and west of the Okavango Delta.
Many people find it amazing that elephants know when they are in danger and often leave the area. Experts know that during the Angolan Civil War, many elephants crossed the border into Botswana. When the war ended in 2002, many of these elephants returned to their former hunting grounds. Experts say this proves that elephants are aware when they are in danger and will take steps to move to safer areas.
Officials are also using tracking collars on elephants in an effort to learn more about their habits. The collars have helped officials track the elephants across five countries. Experts hope all these efforts helps to restore habitat to elephants and stop overcrowding situations.