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Tune in to John Murphy’s broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the following link: to hear more about people Living with elephants in the Okavango Delta and the work of Ecoexist.

The battle to keep the peace between people and elephants in northern Botswana.

The earth’s largest land mammal, the elephant, is an endangered species. Poaching, habitat loss and disease have decimated elephant populations. But not in Botswana, which has the world’s biggest population of elephants. In the north of the country, in the area around the remarkable Okavango Delta (the world’s largest inland delta), elephant numbers are growing and they outnumber people. This can pose serious problems for the human population, particularly local subsistence farmers. A crop raid by elephants can destroy a family’s annual food supply overnight. Elephants also pose a risk to life in their daily commute between their feeding grounds and their water sources.

John Murphy travels to the top of the Okavango Delta, to see what efforts are being made to keep both people and elephants safe, and to persuade locals that these giant animals are an asset not a liability. He also explores threats from further afield to this green jewel in the desert, the Okavango Delta, which animals and people alike depend on.

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In 2019, a great article was published by Simon Espley about Ecoexist’s work in the Okavango Panhandle and exploring What Rural Batswana Feel About Elephants – beyond Politics and Ideoligies. Read the full article at the link below:

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We have uploaded the ATTA best Wildlife and Nature Article award winning article by James Gifford about Ecoexist and our work in the Okavango to reduce human-elephant conflict and foster coexistence into our documents folder. Please read the full article at the link below:

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Songhurst, A, Baitseng, M, Lalley, JS, Lupton S, Molatlhegi M, Mosupi, O, Nkalolang I, Sensinyi, B, Stronza, A, Taylor, T, Holle, K, & McCulloch, G. (2023). All aboard the ‘Elephant Express’, a practical solution for human-elephant coexistence. Pachyderm. No. 64 October 2022 – September 2023.

Songhurst, A. (2023). Probing the Complexities of Actual and Perceived Levels of Human-Elephant Conflict in the Okavango, Botswana. Diversity 2023, 15, 890.

Matsika TA, Masunga, GS, Makati, A, McCulloch G, Stronza A, Songhurst AC, Adjetey, JA, Obopile, M. (2023). Crop diversity and susceptibility of crop fields to elephant raids in eastern Okavango Panhandle, northern Botswana. Ecology and Evolution 13: e9910.

Redmore L, Katholo, I, Sene-Harper A, Songhurst A, McCulloch G & Stronza A. (2023) The Village, the Elephant, and the State: Land Access and Vulnerability in Rural Botswana. Human Ecology.

Naidoo R, Beytell P, Brennan A, Kilian W, McCulloch G, Stronza A, Taylor R, Tsholofelo C and Songhurst A (2022) Challenges to Elephant Connectivity From Border Fences in the World’s Largest Transfrontier Conservation Area. Front. Conserv. Sci. 3:788133.

Vogel, S., Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A. (2022). Understanding farmers’ reasons behind mitigation decisions is key in supporting their coexistence with wildlife. People and Nature 4: 1305-1318. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10397.

Buchholtz EK, McDaniels M, Songhurst AC, McCulloch G, & Stronza A. (2022). A mixed-methods assessment of human-elephant conflict in the Western Okavango Panhandle, Botswana. People and Nature 5: 557-571. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10443.

Buchholtz EK, Spragg, S, Songhurst AC, Stronza A, McCulloch G, & Fitzgerald LA, (2021). Anthropogenic impact on wildlife resource use: Spatial and temporal shifts in elephants’ access to water. African Journal of Ecology 00:1-10. DOI: 10.1111/aje.12860

Redmore L., Stronza A., Songhurst A. and McCulloch G. (2020) Where elephants roam: Perceived risk, vulnerability, and adaptation in the Okavango Delta. Ecology and Society – ES-2020-12001 (Version 2 of ES-2020-11875)

Buchholtz EK, Fitzgerald LA, Songhurst AC, McCulloch G, Stronza A (2020). Using landscape connectivity to predict human-wildlife conflict. Biological Conservation. 248. 108-677.

Buchholtz, E. K., L. Fitzgerald, A. Songhurst, G. P. McCulloch, and A. L. Stronza. 2020. Experts and elephants: local ecological knowledge predicts landscape use for a species involved in human-wildlife conflict. Ecology and Society 25(4):26. https://doi. org/10.5751/ES-11979-250426

Vogel, S., Blumenthal, S., Frederik de Boer, W., Masake, M., Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., Henley, M., and Coulson, T. (2020). Timing of dietary switching by savannah elephants in relation to crop consumption. Biological Conservation. 249, 108-703.

Vogel, S., Lambert, B., Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., and Coulson, T. (2020). Exploring movement decisions: Can Bayesian movement-state models explain crop consumption behaviour in elephants (Loxodonta africana)? Journal of Animal Ecology. 1-14. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13177.

Buchholtz EK, Redmore L, Fitzgerald LA, Stronza A, Songhurst AC, McCulloch G (2019) Temporal partitioning and overlapping use of a shared natural resource by people and elephants. Front Ecol Evol 7:1–12

Buchholtz EK, Fitzgerald LA, Songhurst AC, McCulloch G, Stronza A (2019). Overlapping landscape utilization by elephants and people in the Western Okavango Panhandle: implications for conflict and conservation. Landscape Ecology.,-volV() 0123458697().,-

Hofman, M. P. G., M. W. Hayward, M. Heim, P. Marchand, C. M. Rolandsen, J. Mattisson, F. Urbano, M. Heurich, A. Mysterud, J. Melzheimer, N. Morellet, U. Voigt, B. L. Allen, B. Gehr, C. Rouco, W. Ullmann, Ø. Holand, N. H. Jørgensen, G. Steinheim, F. Cagnacci, M. Kroeschel, P. Kaczensky, B. Buuveibaatar, J. C. Payne, I. Palmegiani, K. Jerina, P. Kjellander, O ̈ . Johansson, S. LaPoint, R. Bayrakcismith, J. D. C. Linnell, M. Zaccaroni, M. L. S. Jorge, J. E. F. Oshima, A. Songhurst, C. Fischer, R. T. Mc Bride, Jr., J. J. Thompson, S. Streif, R. Sandfort, C. Bonenfant, M. Drouilly, M. Klapproth, D. Zinner, R. Yarnell, A. Stronza, L. Wilmott, E. Meisingset, M. Thaker, A. T. Vanak, S. Nicoloso, R. Graeber, S. Said, M. R. Boudreau, A. Devlin, R. Hoogesteijn, J. A. May-Junior, J. C. Nifong, J. Odden, H. B. Quigley, F. Tortato, D. M. Parker, A. Caso, J. Perrine, C. Tellaeche, F. Zieba, T. Zwijacz-Kozica, C. L. Appel, I. Axsom, W. T. Bean, B. Cristescu, S. Pe ́riquet, K. J. Teichman, S. Karpanty, A. Licoppe, V. Menges, K. Black, T. L. Scheppers, S. C. Schai-Braun, F. C. Azevedo, F. G. Lemos, A. Payne, L. H. Swanepoel, B. V. Weckworth, A. Berger, A. Bertassoni, G. McCulloch, P. Sˇustr, V. Athreya, D. Bockmuhl, J. Casaer, A. Ekori, D. Melovski, C. Richard- Hansen, D. van de Vyver, R. Reyna-Hurtado, E. Robardet, N. Selva, A. Sergiel, M. S. Farhadinia, P. Sunde, R. Portas, H. Ambarli, R. Berzins, P. M. Kappeler, G. K. Mann, L. Pyritz, C. Bissett, T. Grant, R. Steinmetz, L. Swedell, R. J. Welch, D. Armenteras, O. R. Bidder, T. M. Gonza ́lez, A. Rosenblatt, S. Kachel, N. Balkenhol (2019). Right on track? Performance of satellite telemetry in terrestrial wildlife research. Plos One,1-26.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., 2018. Ecoexist Project End Year 5 Report. Ecoexist Trust, Botswana.

Pozo, R.A., Cusack, J.J., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., Coulson, T., Songhurst, A., 2018. Elephant space-use is not a good predictor of crop-damage. Biological Conservation 228, 241-251.

Redmore L., Stronza A., Songhurst A. and McCulloch G. (2018) Which Way Forward? Past and New Perspectives on Community-Based Conservation in the Anthropocene. In: Dominick A. DellaSala, and Michael I. Goldstein (eds.) The Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene, vol. 3, p. 453-460. Oxford: Elsevier.

Songhurst, A., 2017. Measuring human-wildlife conflicts: comparing insights from different monitoring approaches. Wildl. Soc. Bull.

Pozo, R.A., Coulson, T., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., Songhurst, A., 2017. Determining baselines for human-elephant conflict: a matter of time. PLoS One 12 (6), e0178840.

Pozo, R.A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., Coulson, T., Songhurst, A., 2017. Chilli-bri- quettes modify elephant temporal behaviour but not numbers. Oryx. 10.1017/S0030605317001235.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., 2017. Ecoexist Project End Year 4 Report. Ecoexist Trust, Botswana.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., 2016. Ecoexist Project End Year 3 Report. Ecoexist Trust, Botswana.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., 2015. Ecoexist Project End Year 2 Report. Ecoexist Trust, Botswana.

Songhurst, A., M. Chase, and T. Coulson. 2015. Using simulations of past and present elephant (Loxodonta africana) population numbers in the Okavango Delta Panhandle, Botswana to improve future population estimates. Wetlands Ecology and Management 23:1–20.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Coulson, T., 2015. Finding pathways to human–elephant coexistence: a risky business. Oryx.

Songhurst, A., Coulson, T., 2014. Exploring the effects of spatial autocorrelation when identifying key drivers of wildlife crop-raiding. Ecol. Evol. 4, 582–593.

Songhurst, A., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., 2014. Ecoexist Project End Year 1 Report. Ecoexist Trust, Botswana.

Songhurst, A., 2014. Ecoexist report on elephant collaring exercise Eastern and western Panhandle. In: Ecoexist Project, Botswana.

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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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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.


Read the full article here

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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.


Read the full article here