Chobe elephants have been trying to find an ancient route to their former habitat in Gaborone over the past week. About 12 elephants were sighted less than 80km from the capital, as wildlife officers’ battle to drive the elephants from Chobe National Park into the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) and Khutse Game Reserve.
Missionary records show that the area around Kolobeng and Gaborone used to be populated with elephants that were killed for the ivory trade. Gaborone is about 1,000km from the Chobe National Park. On Tuesday, two elephants were seen two kilometres from Molepolole or 52km from Gaborone, in Suping village, before they were driven away by wildlife officers. Now they are reported to be in the village of Ditshukudung, as wildlife officers attempt to drive them into the Khutse Game Reserve and the CKGR.
Kweneng regional wildlife coordinator, Dimakatso Ntsebe said 12 elephants have been seen in the area in separate groups over the last week. The largest group of seven elephants were sighted in Khudumelajwe.
Meanwhile, it looks like wildlife officers are struggling to drive back the elephants. Two of the wild animals spotted outside Molepolole were close to reaching Lentswe-le-tau village on Wednesday, before the army intervened to help wildlife officers.
On Friday some of the animals were reported to be 8km from Ditshukudu. Ntsebe says the Chobe elephants have been marching into the CKGR and the Khutse Game Reserve in high numbers lately in search of pasture and watering holes.
From the CKGR and Khutse, the elephants found their way to Kweneng, which the regional wildlife coordinator describes as an ancient habitat for the animals. “In times of plenty, and good rains, the Chobe elephants would traverse the CKGR and the Khutse, and find their way into Kweneng. You could say this is part of their habitat, but the problem with the Kweneng region is that it is hugely populated compared to, say, the Chobe area, so the damage they could cause in this region would be severe,” Ntshebe explained.
He said there has been an increasing number of elephants entering the CKGR and Khutse, from the Chobe since Lake Ngami came back to life in 2010. A month ago, the first elephant was sighted in the Kweneng village of Medie.
Another elephant was spotted in the Kweneng region last year. Some critics say the presence of elephants in Kweneng could be a sign that they have outgrown the Chobe habitat and now they want to spread to other parts of the country. In 2007 three elephants from the Motloutse/Shashe area were spotted in the Tswapong and Mahalapye areas following their ancient route to their former habitat. The then Central District Council (CDC) senior wildlife biologist, Balisana Marotsi said that the area where the three elephants’ tracks were spotted used to be their home before they spread to the Motloutse/Shashe area.
By Monkagedi Gaothobogwe
25 March 2014