Progress 2009

Fieldwork in 2009 went well and we are now preparing for fieldwork in 2010. Three of our enumerators left us to go on to further education opportunities, which was a loss to the team, however, we recruited 3 new enumerators to replace them. We now have Gasefele Bukaetsile working in Beetsha, Baleseng James working in Eretsha and Keamogetse Mosakoi working in Ngarange. We had funds available this year to employ two extra enumerators in the villages of Mogotho and Tobera, they are Obeletse Tiego and Hakoka Xhoro respectively.

During January - June 2009 raided field monitoring continued and transects to assess the spatial use of elephants and people were carried out. Detailed farmer interviews continued in April and May for farmers who were raided and non-raided in 2008. A total of 306 interviews have been conducted and farmers were very co-operative and helpful with the survey.

Overall, there were fewer elephant raids in 2009 crop season compared to 2008, with 413 fields raided in 2008 and 208 fields in 2009. This may have been due to a larger rainfall in 2009 keeping elephants near rain filled pans for longer, rather than coming to the river for water and hence near to fields.

A total of eight elephants were killed in the 2009 crop-raiding season, and one person lost their life to an elephant. In 2008, 6 elephants were killed as problem animals and two people lost their lives to elephants in the Okavango Panhandle.

Educational talks have been conducted in local schools during March- June, as well as two talks in English primary schools. Articles have been published in the “Peolwane” Air Botswana magazine and “Conservation News” the magazine for the Department of Environmental Affairs, Government of Botswana.

Conservation International funded two training workshops for farmers in the eastern Okavango Panhandle and Chobe Enclave. The purpose of these workshops was to discuss current methods and teach new methods of community based conflict management. The first workshop (26th-28th Sept ‘09) was held in Gunotsoga village and community members from Beetsha, Eretsha and Gunotsoga villages attended. The second workshop (2nd-3rd Oct ’09) took place in Parakarungu village, with community members from Satau and Parakarungu attending. Elephant Pepper Development Trust carried out the training and Okavango Elephants and People Research Project facilitated the workshops. Overall, 57 people attended the workshops, including farmers, HEC enumerators, DWNP officers, IRDNC representatives from Namibia and other interested community members. Feedback from the workshops was positive and trainees were enthusiastic to start implementing methods learnt.

Articles and Publications

Songhurst, A (2009) “People and Elephants in the Okavango Panhandle - Conflict or Coexistence?”, Conservation News, March, Department of Environmental Affairs, Botswana

Songhurst, A (2009) “Conflict or Coexistence?” has been published in “Peolwane” Air Botswana in-flight magazine, June edition pages 32-35.

Brina, G, (2009) “Deterred by the de Turd”, The Voice, November

Songhurst, A (2009) “Chilli Workshops”, The Ngami Times, November

Refentse Tessa, (2009) “Botswana tries spicy solution to keep elephants at bay”, Agence France Presse, November 21

Progress 2008

The project fieldwork has been going well over the last few months. All villages in the study area have been visited and the research and project personnel introduced to the community. Each village chief has recommended an enumerator of elephant damage for their village and all candidates were interviewed by the principal investigator. Ten enumerators of conflict incidents from 10 villages in the study area have been trained and one research assistant from Gunotsoga (the closest village to the research camp).

Enumerators were deployed in April and have been collecting data over the last 3 months before the crops were harvested. Data collection started mid-crop season and we missed some of the earlier raiding incidents, therefore next year we will begin data collection at the start of the crop-season (Jan). Over 300 fields have been raided by elephants in 2008 and all of these have been attended by the research team. GPS locations of damage sites, entrance and exit points of the elephants, nearest waterholes and elephant pathways and watch hut waypoints have also been recorded. Additional data on the crops, mitigation techniques, vegetation, raiding elephants, temporal data and socioeconomic data on the farmers have been recorded. A total of 5 elephants have been labelled as problem animals and shot by farmers in the community this year, but luckily no injuries to humans have been recorded. The number of elephant raided fields as well as the number of elephants shot as problem animals, show that human-elephant conflict is a reality in the Okavango Panhandle.

Over the next few months, data will be recorded on non-raided fields and those fields raided by elephants in 2007. This will allow a comparative analysis to be conducted between raided and non-raided fields and to identify factors which make a farm more susceptible to being raided. A detailed elephant population survey is scheduled to take place in August, in collaboration with Elephants Without Borders research project.

Enumerator Training

When fieldwork commenced in March, the first task was to identify assistants/enumerators in each village to assist with data collection. The PI and research assistants visited all village chiefs, to introduce the project and ask for assistance in selecting a person to assist the research project. Each chief recommended an enumerator and these candidates were interviewed by the PI. Table 1 (below) lists the enumerators, translator and research assistant selected to work on the project. Our initial research assistant, Jocasta Bobeng, assisted for the first month but she now has a job as a primary school teacher in Ghanzi and Nature has therefore taken on the role as translator and research assistant.

Name Village Sex DOB Position in Project
Motoloki Morena Gudigwa Male 1986 Enumerator in Gudigwa
Gaolathe Barden James Beetsha Male 1977 Enumerator in Beetsha
Mpotshang Fabian France (Fabian) Eretsha Male 1988 Enumerator in Eretsha
Ohitisengi Mosupi (Mojita) Gunotsoga Male 1981 Enumerator in Gunotsoga
Makgetho Sehotira Seronga Male 1964 Enumerator in Seronga
Keabetswe Zingoro Ngarange Male 1986 Enumerator in Ngarange
Monjivi Maira Sekondomboro Male 1986 Enumerator in Sekondomboro
Mathata Kashongo Xakao Male 1977 Enumerator in Xakao
Rukonga Lebogang Namavunga Kauxwi Female 1984 Enumerator in Kauxwi
Cecilia Dikoro Mohembo East Female 1989 Enumerator in Mohembo East
Tlholego Setshwantsho (Nature) Gunotsoga Male 1978 Translator
Jocasta Bobeng Gweta Female 1981 Research Assistant

Two training workshops took place in April: one for the villages of Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa, which was held in Gudigwa; and the other for the villages of Ngarange, Sekondomboro, Xakao, Kauxwi and Mohembo East, which was held in Mohembo East. It was decided that two workshops would be held for logistical reasons. Each workshop took place in the village Kgotla.

Training manuals were distributed to all enumerators, which were designed based on the enumerator training manuals from the IUCN (Hoare, 1999). The workshop was conducted in two parts, theory and practical. Initially, the PI went through the training manuals, explaining the theory behind HWC and the role of the enumerator in the data collection protocol. It was clearly explained that this research is separate from DWNP work and that it is not our role to give compensation to farmers. All enumerators were then trained in interviewing techniques, measuring fields and assessing damage, and in using a Global Positioning System (GPS). A practice assessment was conducted in a selected field close to the workshop venue. Here enumerators practiced assessing a field and used all the skills they had learnt.

All enumerators were deployed mid- April after the training workshop and have been monitored every two weeks by the PI and research assistant. Each field was located and visited by the enumerator, who collected baseline data shortly after each raiding incident. The PI then visited the field and verified enumerator data collection and assessed the environmental factors of the field.

Okavango Elephants & People Research Project
Anna Songhurst, Address: P. O. Box 131, Seronga, Botswana Tel: +267 71234281 / +267 74357589