Wilderness Donates Five Satellite Collars to Aid Ecoexist in Tracking Botswana Elephant Movement

As part of Wilderness Safaris’ impact strategy to help alleviate human-wildlife conflict in its areas of operation, the company has donated five satellite collars to Ecoexist to help collect data and map elephant movements and corridors in northern Botswana. The donation is part of Wilderness Safaris’ long-term commitment to conservation in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti environments, working with local authorities and partners to safeguard and preserve areas of pristine wilderness and the wildlife that inhabits them. 

 “We have been working with Ecoexist since 2019 and are proud to be able to support their project with this important contribution, so that they can continue to seek ways to reduce conflict and foster coexistence between elephants and humans. In areas of heightened competition for water, food, and space, they find and facilitate solutions that work for both species”, noted Kim Nixon, Okavango Wilderness Safaris MD.

To gain an understanding of bull and cow herd relationships, six female and six male elephants were collared in April 2022 to track herd movement.

“Data from the satellite collars include hourly GPS locations, which enable us to track an elephant's movements throughout each day. Such data can be used to help understand daily, monthly and seasonal patterns of movement and resource use, as well as ecological impact”, added Anna Songhurst, Ecoexist Trust Director.

In the short term, Ecoexist empowers farmers with practical, affordable, and effective tools to deter crop-raiding and reduce conflict with elephants. In the long-term, they collaborate with local, national, and international groups to create an enabling environment for a range of policies and programmes that tackle the root causes of human-elephant conflict.

“On behalf of Ecoexist, I would like to thank the Department Of Wildlife & National Parks for granting permission for this research, and to Elephant Crisis Fund, Save the Elephants, Okavango Wilderness Safaris and the Wild Bird Trust for funding this specific research project”, Anna said.

Elephants don’t recognise that international borders and their movements are being increasingly infringed upon by human development and land conversion. Securing safe passage along corridors is critical to enabling them to move freely between protected areas and critical resources. These corridors will ensure movement through mixed land-use areas, and also facilitate transboundary movement between Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Angola, along what are termed key wildlife dispersal areas (WDA). Wildlife corridors along these WDAs are essential to the function of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).  

In addition to threats from poachers, elephants face obstacles to their free movement in the shape of fences, roads and changes to land use that impede their passage. By studying their movements, key micro-corridors can be identified that allow essential elephant movement, which, if further restricted, may lead to heightened conflict. This focused research will therefore provide some evidence and a compelling argument to consider their protection.

Potentially, this will also ensure elephants have safe passage from high-density to lower-density areas, which will in turn naturally reduce the ecological effect of large elephant concentrations experienced in some areas of northern Botswana.  

Identifying well-defined elephant corridors also helps the consideration by various stakeholders to avoid crop damage and competition for water resources.  

“We are very excited to start collecting additional movement data from this project to inform effective management and reduce human-elephant conflict around the Okavango Delta”, Anna concluded.