Two of the most elephant dense countries in Africa Botswana and Zimbabwe amongst other countries will be represented at the elephant summit in Botswana today. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to arrive in Botswana today to attend the all-important summit.
Botswana has to date the highest population of elephants in Africa with estimates of 130, 000 elephants in spite of the detrimental problem posed by poaching. Zimbabwe comes second to Botswana with 84, 000 elephants of the 300 000 elephants in the Southern African region, which means that Zimbabwe is inhabited by 28% of all elephants in Southern Africa and about 20.5% in the entire continent.
Inherently elephants contribute to the ecological integrity of any given landscape and they also have immense economic value, they have however also brought with them some discomforts to those living within their vicinity.
Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi invited heads of state from nations with the greatest reservoir of elephants on the planet to discuss a common policy toward the management of the pachyderms.
The invitee delegations and dignitaries will discuss the impact of Elephants on humans like the particularly worrying elephant and human conflicts caused by habitat loss and fragmentation. The Botswana government in a statement published in the invitation said “Levels of human-elephant conflict continue to escalate, especially where human and agricultural expansion moves into new areas already occupied by African elephants” Testament to this are cases in Zimbabwe, according to The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) in 2018 Elephants attacked 37 people causing two deaths and five injuries.
Also in the table for discussion at the summit will be the legal and illegal trade in elephant products with the aim of agreeing on “concrete interventions to address the challenges posed,” Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers. Their ivory tusks are the most sought after, but their meat and skin are also traded. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year for their tusks. The ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery and China is the biggest consumer market for such products.
In Zimbabwe organisations like Zimparks are putting forth arguments that the other countries do not understand the huge numbers of elephants inhabiting the land. The argument is that the beneficial sale of these animals should be allowed.
The Botswana government has also echoed these sentiments critically pointing out what it calls “constant media glare, with much of this coverage ignoring the plight of rural communities who bear the brunt of living with elephants.”
The culmination of the summit slated for the 7th of May will see a meeting between heads of state focused on countries in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. The 520,000 square-kilometer (200,773 square-mile) expanse includes swamp, savannah and riverine habitat in Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.