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Author: Patricia Ash

Follow the elephant

Updated Thursday, 1st April 2010

Human activity can have a devasting impact on migratory species, such as the African elephant

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Many species migrate seasonally as available food is depleted in the winter, or the dry season in the tropics. Loss of these resources is disastrous for many migratory species.

Elephants crossing the Chobe river in Botswana Elephants on the bank of the Chobe river, Botswana

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is thriving in Botswana with an estimated population of 150,000 individuals. However, there is conflict between the elephants and the increasing human population in Botswana. The loss and fragmentation of forest and savannah habitats due to human activity makes it difficult for the elephants to use their traditional seasonal migration routes in search of food and water.

The elephants may break down fences and trample crops in their attempts to follow their ancient routes. Some farmers hang empty bottles on a line as an attempt to scare away elephants from their crops. Wind passing over the tops of the bottles is said to produce a low sound that elephants hear and dislike. Some of their routes are now blocked by electric fences, and elephants are being chased away by gunshots fired by farmers.

Beer bottles hung up to protect crops from elephants
Beer bottles hung up to protect crops from elephants

Tracking helps to monitor the huge scale of the elephants’ migration. The home range of one group whose leader was tracked by a radio collar was 13,800 km2 - a vast area.

How you can help

A possible solution of the conflict between farmers and elephants would be to re-establish the Botswana elephants’ ancient migration routes that used to cross into Angola before the civil war. This would be preferable to the suggestion of culling 60,000 elephants.

If you live in the UK you may not be able to protect elephants in your back garden, but you can visit iSpot to play a part in conserving your local ecosystem.


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