BackgroundRegion: Okavango-Upper Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, Botswana
The largest contiguous population of elephants remaining on the African continent exists in northern Botswana, with in excess of 125 000 individuals recorded. In the past, elephants were able to move long distances when the need arose, but today, veterinary fences and human conflicts have created barriers to these movements, so that high concentrations of animals remain in one area, putting pressure on vegetation as well as increasing conflict between local communities and the elephants themselves. A long-term regional elephant conservation plan is vital to protect the last vestige of the million-strong herds that once roamed Africa.
ObjectivesTo accomplish this and working in collaboration with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and other partners, this study aims to provide important information on the abundance, distribution, population structure, habitat needs, and movements of elephants in northern Botswana, and particularly the transboundary movements of elephants within the Okavango-Upper Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (OUZTFCA). This data, along with a digital land-cover map and a spatial elephant population model hopefully will provide wildlife managers with vital tools for developing an elephant management programme for Botswana as well as for the larger Transfrontier Conservation Area.
MethodologyIn 2004, the project tagged ten elephant, five along Botswana’s eastern border with Zimbabwe and the other five throughout northern Botswana – including one on the Linyanti River as requested by Wilderness Safaris. There was considerable variation in movements of the tagged elephants, with two of the adult females moving more than 350km from their original tagging sites!
Aerial surveys were conducted in the Lower Kwando River Basin, over an area of 20 981 km2. The objective of the survey was to provide up-to-date information on the size and distribution of elephant populations in the region. Such information is critical for developing more effective land-use management strategies for conserving and enhancing transboundary wildlife movements.
The project also involves DWNP staff directly with field research activities and provides training to strengthen in-country elephant conservation efforts by DWNP and other project partners in Botswana.