By Leigh Kemp
Botswana has the largest elephant population on the continent due to a number of reasons including tight protection and civil unrest in neighbouring countries. The relative difficulty in accessing the wildlife areas coupled with the military threat to poachers has allowed the elephant population in Botswana to grow.
The Chobe River front was once only a part of the ancient elephant migration routes but with civil war in Angola and the war of liberation in Namibia the elephants fell victim to mass poaching.
Rival armies were killing elephants for target practice and to sell ivory for weapons. The elephants reacted to this threat by not crossing Chobe River, instead the Chobe then became the dry season refuge for the herds and over the years the numbers built up and the reputation of Chobe grew.
There have been incidents of poaching in Botswana, and in particular rhino, but the government decided to set up a military task force in the fight against the scourge. Poachers were ruthlessly dealt with and the task force became a full-time anti-poaching unit.
The end of the war in Namibia, and relative peace having returned to Angola, the elephants have slowly but surely started moving across the Chobe River again. However there are many elephants that have not had the experience of the migration routes and still see Chobe as a dry season refuge.
The Linyanti area of Botswana was once a hunting concession but in the past 10 years, with only photographic tourism been offered they, the elephants are starting to return en masse to the region and Linyanti today is being touted as equal to Chobe when it comes to elephant experience.
Other areas of Botswana such as the Okavango Delta also see high concentrations of elephant due to the permanent water source.
There is a debate as to the exact numbers of elephants in the country and with the herds now crossing freely into neighbouring countries it is difficult to determine any population numbers but it can be safely said that Botswana's elephant population is more than stable.