As Parliament recently debated the Tourism Policy, stakeholders in the Boteti area embarked on a Human-Wildlife Conflict alleviation project, Kazungula-based private company, Holistique Organics was constructing a ’belt’ called Elephant Deterrent Web at a cluster farmers’ area called Makhi Farms between Rakops and the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).
A ploughing field belonging to one of the cluster members was the site of the pilot. The construction was led by the area’s farmers’ association in collaboration with the Boteti Rural Development Trust(BRDT). Birdlife Botswana, a Non-Governmental Organisation renowned for working with Community- Based Organisations (CBOs) to empower households came in as the project’s facilitator and advisor alongside the Technical Advisory Committee(TAC) represented by the Department of Wildlife and National Park(DWNP) employees.
The Contractor, Enoch Kegodile explained how the belt deters elephants. He said the belt is a reflective orange, which looks like fire to elephants. Elephants are known to be wary of flames. Through a surround system, the belt also sends false information to approaching elephants, leading them to believe other elephants are nearby. It can produce 50 various sound pitches in seconds. It is fastened to 2.7 m poles, a metre of which is buried in the ground at the time of the installation. The remaining section of the pole sticks out in the line of the elephant’s view. When the wind blows, the sound pitches can reach elephants some 10 km away – elephants are believed to hear each other from as far away as 10 km. The vibrating sounds can be absorbed into the ground because of the thickness of the belt (50 cm) and can keep vibrating even after the wind has long passed. Through their feet, elephants pick up the vibration, convincing them that other elephants are close. As they draw closer and spot the belt, the penny drops that the elephants have been tricked, at which point they retreat.
The belt is the brainchild of locals, Kegodile and his partners and is manufactured in South Africa. According to Kegodile, the belt has been installed in select areas in the Chobe and Ngamiland and has proven to be effective. The project is an extension of the training and capacity building workshops that Birdlife Botswana, funded by the Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme (SGP-GEF), conducted to empower communities on issues of CBO’s project implementation, funds utilisation and general governance.
Tirelo Ramogwera of Birdlife Botswana said,
“It is the first adopted strategy to control Human-Elephant Conflicts. There are ongoing arrangements to grow chillies, which the Trust will distribute to farmers, and more will be sold to encourage them to generate an income for themselves.
From the past workshop, we have gathered that the best way to manage problem animals is to integrate different methods and ensure continuous monitoring.”
The Director of GEF-SGP, Abigail Engleton, said the initiative is part of a bigger project her office is sponsoring to the tune of over P500,000 to implement its Phase 6 cycle aimed at tackling climate change through projects that mitigate against climate change impacts.