Aug 27, 2021

Hunting resumes & the fence returns

New National Park fence in place along the Boteti
New National Park fence in place along the Boteti

Due to the global pandemic tourism activities, including hunting, all but came to a halt in April 2020 when the country went into lockdown. Since then, local tourism has increased, and a few international tourists are travelling but many are restricted by Covid-19 restrictions and protocols. This delayed the opening of the resumption of hunting in Botswana until the 30th March 2021, and we can confirm that this has now resumed and at least one hunt has occurred in our study area.

Whilst most of our research activities have been able to resume unhindered this year, regional travel restrictions are taking a toll on our logistics as our main service town Maun, where we buy our supplies, get our permits and services our vehicles is in another region!

There has been no obvious change in the behaviour of elephants when we first see them when observed in the National Park, however with just the one hunt so far this is to be expected. We shall also be using our data to compare the reaction to humans between the cropping and non-cropping season.

It is also interesting to note that the Department of Wildlife and National Park are re-erecting the park fence on the western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, which will limit the access the elephants have to the community side and may affect their behaviour and their reaction indices due to the stress of not being able to access valuable resources. We look forward to finding out.

We hope that this finds you in good health.

Research Officer Thata observing elephants
Research Officer Thata observing elephants
Jul 21, 2021

Botswana's schools still disrupted by Covid-19

Wild Shots Outreach photography workshop
Wild Shots Outreach photography workshop

The year got off to a promising start with our school’s environmental education programme extending into Motopi Junior Secondary school in February which was the first time we have been able to engage face-to-face with a school. Whilst we have not been able to return to the classrooms in the junior schools, we have continued to liaise with the teachers to assist them wherever we can and continue to develop posters that summarise information about a topic that engage the students.

We have also been working on a comic that tells the story of a young cattle boy and his journey as he begins to understand the importance of elephants in the economy and ecology of his community and country. The artist is now busy finalising the artwork and we hope to get it to print in the next month and distributed to our schools and further afield as soon as possible. We shall certainly keep you posted on that.

Sadly, on Friday last week, the schools were closed for another month as Covid-19 cases reached their highest in Botswana and President Maisisi announced a state of emergency. They should reopen on the 16th of August and the President said the government would prioritise vaccinating teachers during the closure of schools as the virus has been widespread in learning institutions.

 Another area we have been focusing on recently is the education of the youth (18-30year olds), many of whom never had the opportunity to finish their education, having to leave school after primary school or during their secondary education for various reasons. In the past, we have run workshops on entrepreneurship and in June this year we partnered with the award-winning South African NGO Wild Shots Outreach for a photographic workshop and the weeklong course was a real hit. It gave young community members the opportunity to see wildlife through new eyes and for many, it was the first time they had ever visited the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park which their village borders. We hope that we are able to offer more young people the opportunity in 2022.

As well as educating school children and the youth in Botswana, we think it is important that we educate children around the world to appreciate the beauty of elephants and the challenges that living alongside them can present. We, therefore, give talks to students around the world. Skype a Scientist is one means that we are able to connect with classrooms from the safety of our office and reach children in many different regions of our world and we have enjoyed connecting with children in Ireland, England, Canada and the US to date.

Covid is challenging us in many ways as we eagerly await vaccinations for all our team members and of course the communities we work with. We are working hard to adapt and work with the school as much as we can and we thank you for your support, especially during these challenging times.

We look forward to updating you again soon. Until then take care and stay safe.

Best wishes

The EfA Team

Portrait buy Anthony Oratile
Portrait buy Anthony Oratile
Image of Wild Shots Outreach Participant
Image of Wild Shots Outreach Participant
Skype a Scientist feedback from the children
Skype a Scientist feedback from the children

Links:

Apr 29, 2021

Out and about with the elephants

Bulls in the Boteti River
Bulls in the Boteti River

We are very grateful that current Covid19 government guidelines and restrictions allow us access to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and can continue with our observational work on the elephant population. The majority of which are still male, although we are seeing more female herd activity in the area particularly through our camera trap survey. Of course, the pandemic has not affected the social network of the elephants, and they have been free to meet up and interact and maybe they have enjoyed the quiet of fewer visitors to their area! It will be interesting to see if after the quiet their behaviour changed and in the initial period that we and tourist return they are more skittish in their behaviour as they get used to hearing and seeing us again in their area. We hope that recommendations where you are allowing you to see more of your friends and family.

Another aspect we will have to take into consideration for our study is the weather when times are tough and food resources scare versus a time of abundance. Thanks to good rains following years of drought the elephants are enjoying a time of plenty and are spread wide and far and so they are harder for us to track down and find as they are not being drawn to the river for water. They are however being drawn to the community lands, as it is harvest season and so we are responded to farmers calls to let us know they have been raided and getting some sightings of elephants on the community side to contribute to our study.

Hunting has resumed but with restrictions on travel for many countries, it is not clear how many hunts will take place this year. We now have good baseline data for comparison and will of course continue with our weekly research drives as we head out of summer into what is predicted to be a cold winter.

We look forward to updating you again soon. Thanks so much for your continued support of our work and until next time, stay safe.

Best wishes

The EfA Team

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