Elephant Bus

Elephant Bus

Suspend your belief. I found an African charity that doesn’t boil my blood.

The human/wild animal conflict in Africa is almost as politically volatile as climate change throughout much of – especially rural Africa. Elephants in particular are the problem and a tour company has done something admirable about it.

The alarming increase in wild animal injuries and deaths to Africans the last decade is appalling. The vast majority of these are in Kenya, but South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia are also suffering.

These are the countries with the most elephants. In fact, too many. As I’ve often written as well as documented from the field the density of elephants today is dangerous. It’s not only threatening people it’s threatening the innate behavior of elephants.

Last year alone there were more than 20 reported deaths caused by elephants in Kenya. Several people were killed on farms bordering Mt. Kenya and Meru National Park. A farmer in Baringo tried to scare an elephant from breaking through his fence and got trampled.

Very notable was a woman in a much touted animal/agricultural reserve in Laikipia who was trampled to death in an area that tour companies praise for creating an environment where wild animals can live productively with farmers.

Far outside any protected reserve, in an area that IBM has announced it will be investing millions for a call center, two farmers were killed. All of the foregoing were in Kenya.

But tragedy also struck in the other countries, including widely publicized killings in South Africa and Tanzania.

If you’re reading this on Facebook please take the time to go to africaanswerman.com and click the links that lead you to the detailed stories of the foregoing. It’s important to understand the widespread suffering and human stories that are involved.

Botswana’s last national election was determined in part by elephant policy. The largest number of elephants in the continent are found here. The country is developing rapidly and one guide in the Delta asked me last year, “Would you support an elephant reserve in your back yard?”

I said no.

Some of the most vulnerable have proved to be school children walking to classes. The mounting number of stories of young kids trampled to death in their uniforms and backpacks is really heart wrenching.

So a tour company with a deeply vested interest in Botswana tourism decided to tackle the growing angers with a very practical idea.

Natural Selection together with a couple local NGOs and Toyota has launched two “school buses” in an area with elephant/human conflict.

“Our buses offer a conflict mitigation strategy that celebrates the elephants as part of Botswana’s heritage and acknowledges the benefits they have brought to the country’s thriving tourism industry,” the company said.

The high-end tour company, like Bloomberg, is absolutely doing something very worthwhile. Some of us, of course, might characterize it as artful if not clever. The survival of Natural Selection’s type of tourism – or Bloomberg’s way of life – depends upon reenforcing the status quo.

I’ll keep an eye on this to see how successful the project becomes as well as how the people of Delta panhandle will react to it.

For the time being, kudus to Natural Selection.