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How do you stop yourself being trampled by an elephant in your sleep? Attach chilli peppers to a fence of course! That’s just one of the many things I learned from ecologist Dr Graham McCulloch. The 41-year-old from Ballyboughal in north Co Dublin has called Botswana home for 20 years.

“After I finished a degree in zoology at the University of Dundee in 1994, I got a contract as a safari guide with a company which was starting up in Botswana. All I wanted was a year’s experience, but that milestone came and went and I’m still here.”

Wooed by the wildlife, Graham began to research a PhD based on the Makgadikgadi wetlands of central Botswana. His study included monitoring the comings and goings of birds, prompting locals to nickname him “the Bird Man” or “Mr Flamingo”.

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http://www.irishtimes.com/business/work/irish-couple-working-to-resolve-conflict-between-elephants-and-farmers-in-africa-1.2065908?page=2

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Ecoexist featured in BBC Wildlife Magazine April 2015 issue_311_415_0

Human-elephant conflict is a major conservation challenge in Botswana. BBC Wildlife meets Makata Baitseng from the Ecoexist Project.

In the April 2015 issue of BBC Wildlife you can read all about a project to protect elephants and people in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This film by Richard Hughes highlights some of the key problems.

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Botswanan elephant conservation

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By Cheryl Merrill

Subsistence farmers depend on hard work and luck. About 70% of rural households in Botswana derive their livelihoods from subsistence farming crops dependent upon seasonal rains. As a consequence of low and erratic rainfall and relatively poor soils, such farms have low productivity.

Keikagile (Kee-ka-HEE-lay) owns such a farm, in the panhandle of the Okavango Delta. But she has one large problem most subsistence farmers do not have: elephants. Her field is close to one of the most frequently used pathways used by generations of elephants as they move south in April and June from the drying pans near Namibia to the waters of the Okavango River. A night’s raid by a single herd of elephants could destroy her entire crop.

 

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keikagile2

By Cheryl Merrill

For several months of each year Keikagile (Kee-ka-HEE-lay) has elephants in her backyard. Entire herds of elephants. Lions, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, hyenas, and other wild denizens of Africa surround her home. But it’s the elephants she most fears, for they can destroy her entire farm in just one night.

Keikagile lives in the Okavango Delta of northern Botswana, in an area of roughly 3,500 square miles (9,000 km2) where 15,000 elephants roam freely and 15,000 people plant fields, herd livestock, and walk to and from school. Between April and June, elephants move southward from drying pans near Namibia to the permanent waters found in the Delta. And as they follow their ancient migration routes, the herds often stop to forage in the fields planted closest to those paths. When seasonal rains return in November, the elephants return north along the same routes.

 

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Written by Amarula Trust

The Amarula Trust is funding a new project to protect elephants. The latest initiative focuses on ways to manage the competition for scarce resources between elephants and people in Botswana.

The Amarula Trust has made African elephants a major thrust of its conservation efforts because they have such a close association with marula fruit, the source of both Amarula Cream and Amarula Gold.

Adèle Ankiewicz, international spokesperson for the not-for-profit Amarula Trust says: “Elephants absolutely love the marula fruit that grows wild in sub-Saharan Africa.  Luckily the fruit is plentiful, with each female tree producing a crop of between 500 kgs and 2 tons, so there is more than enough to share. The trees are also protected, which means they can’t be cut down, ensuring a sustainable supply.”

The project being funded by the Amarula Trust involves collaring elephants in the eastern Okavango Panhandle, part of the delta, in Botswana, to better understand their movements, herd dynamics and feeding patterns. It is being run by an NGO called Ecoexist.

As humans take over more and more of the land where elephants range, the likelihood for conflict between people and elephants escalates.

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people-elephants

Written by Olga Kutchment

In April, a helicopter carrying a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researcher and her collaborators hovered over an elephant herd in northern Botswana. A veterinarian tranquilized an elephant from the air. The team descended, checked that the animal was sleeping comfortably, and placed a collar the size of a hula-hoop around its neck. The collar will transmit the elephant’s GPS coordinates every hour for the next four years.

The team found this particular elephant near an agricultural region between the Okavango River Delta and the Kalahari Desert. Roughly 15,000 elephants walk through the area regularly: Botswana has the largest population of wild elephants in the world. While outsiders marvel at the elephants, locals can face enormous problems when the animals trample and raid crops. Clashes between elephants and farmers have ended in bloodshed on both sides.

The researchers want to help diffuse the conflict in this region.

“What makes our five-year program unique is the holistic approach that we are taking,” said Dr. Amanda Stronza, associate professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences. Stronza, an anthropologist, is one of three co-directors of the program Ecoexist.

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