In July 2015, a short documentary film, “The Ecoexist Project: Pathways to Coexistence,” premiered at the World’s View Conference Centre in the Mokolodi Game Reserve in Gaborone. The film gives a good overview of the Ecoexist Project and aims to be used as an educational tool to inform a variety of stakeholders in Botswana and beyond about the challenges people and elephants are facing. The story is set in the Eastern Okavango Panhandle, where 15,000 people share space and resources with 15,000 elephants. The 18-minute feature includes voices and experiences of people who live every day with elephants and know first-hand the challenges of competing for space, food, and land with the world’s largest population of free-roaming elephants.
The film’s producer and director, Richard Hughes from Edge 2 Edge Films, a UK company, spent over a year working with the Ecoexist team, gathering interviews and footage with farmers as they protected their homes and fields from elephants. Footage includes remarkable sequences of large elephant herds, passing through the villages. The film will be of interest to viewers in Botswana and around the world who are concerned about elephants, human-elephant conflict, and finding ways to support people who live with elephants. “Though other films tend to shine a well-deserved spotlight on elephants, we seek also to illuminate the experiences of people who live close to elephants,” explained Dr. Amanda Stronza, anthropologist and Director for Ecoexist.
“We made it to provide a voice from the Okavango Panhandle, highlighting the need to address human-elephant conflict and the great strides Ecoexist and our partners are making to find strategies for long-term coexistence,” said ecologist, long-time Botswana resident, and Ecoexist Director, Dr. Graham McCulloch. “We hope our collective messages will contribute to improved management of the conflict here and elsewhere in Botswana.” Dr. Anna Songhurst, Director for Ecoexist, is the team’s elephant biologist who has studied human-elephant conflict in the region since 2008. “Many people and organizations have been working together with our team to address the needs of local communities and elephant populations in the region,” Songhurst noted. “The film reflects the energy and goodwill of many people, working together to find solutions.”
Multi-Emmy Award winning NBS broadcast journalist from Botswana, Leloba Seitshiro, narrated the film as a donation for Ecoexist, and she attended the event. “I’m incredibly honoured to be part of this film, and I can’t wait to share it,” she said. “Pathways to co-existence” showcases the work of Ecoexist, proving conservation challenges can be resolved through simple ideas, preserving the unique beauty of Botswana, its people and its wildlife.”
Mophato Dance Theatre choreographed a beautiful and powerful dance on human-elephant conflicts and coexistence, which wowed the crowd! Then Ms Ingrid Otukile, a representative from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism gave a keynote address before the film was viewed at the premier. Many dignitaries attended and enjoyed the event. Directors and Coordinators (Mr Ohitiseng Mosupi and Mr Makata Baitseng) from the Ecoexist team, Seronga Sub-Land Board Secretary (Mr Fannuel Radifalana), DiKgosi (Kgosi Sauqho, Kgosi Mosenyegi, and Kgosi Keseitswe) and a farmer committee representative (Mr Tseko Tsekelo) from the Eastern Okavango Panhandle were present at the premier to answer questions following the film.
The film is avaialable for streaming on the following vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/124473058. It is an official selection of the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and will also be shown and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.