Botswana wildlife threatened by human encroachment

GABORONE (AFP) - Elephants and other animals in one of Africa's richest wildlife spots in Chobe, Botswana are dying as they feed off rubbish dumped by growing human populations encroaching on their land. Four elephants died recently after feeding at a landfill site built in Botswana's second biggest national park, which falls on a route used by the large mammals as they head to drink from the Chobe River, a wildlife warden said. The elephants are among scores of animals whose deaths have been blamed on the dumping site. "I can say we had over 150 deaths of various animal species as a result of feeding at the dumping site," said Thunya Sedododma, principle wildlife warden at Kasane, the Chobe district headquarters. The Chobe district is famous for its elephants with the biggest population on the planet " some 120,000 " living in the region which also boasts the largest elephants found in the world. With one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world, the landfill in the park poses serious risks to animals such as hyena, baboons, birds and other animals which flock to feed at the dump, said Sedododma. Sedododma said game rangers often found plastic in elephant faeces and noted increasing numbers of elephant deaths in the area. Environmentalists say they are investigating the deaths of the elephants. "It is a very unfortunate situation the dumping site has caused. Our elephants attract international attention, so we should be seen to be caring about their health," said Felix Mongae of Botswana's Kalahari Conservation Society. Meanwhile the local council is planning a second dumping site alongside the current one which is bursting at the seams, a choice they have been forced to make due to a shortage of land in the area. "We have a serious land problem in Chobe, unlike other district councils. We are building the second landfill at the same site because we are trying to minimize land use," said council secretary Isau Mbanga. Chobe's land board secretary Chipo Mpofu attributes the critical land shortage to the fact that so much of it has been put aside for wildlife use. There are four nature reserves in the area, the Chobe National Park, Chobe Forest Reserve, Sibuyu Forest Reserve, and Kasane Forest Reserve. "In the past we had to acquire land from parts of the Kasane Forest Reserve, and Chobe Forest Reserve" for use for homes or businesses, said Mpofu. "But we cannot continue to do that because it is a long process, that also threatens tourism, which is the livelihood of our district," he added. Mpofu said five places had initially been earmarked for a new dumping site but they would require getting more land from the wildlife and forest reserves. Mbanga added that the local council also did not have compactors to bury the rubbish, but he was hopeful these would be acquired within months. He said the new dumping site would be fenced and electrified to keep the wildlife away.

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