Drought leaves scores of cattle, hippos dead in Botswana

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - At least 38 000 cattle and more than 200 hippos are stranded while some are reportedly at Lake Ngami in north western Botswana.

This is attributed to El-Nino induced drought which has hit the country in recent years and the lake was the first to feel the impact, resulting in cattle and wild animals dying in large numbers.

According to eye witnesses, cattle and hippos are trapped in the mud while others have already died. The area which is populated with both cattle and wild animals has been the worst to be hit by El-Nino induced drought this year.

 Another area of concern in the north-western part of the country is the Thamalakane River, which has since dried up leaving scores of cattle and wild animals stranded.

Acting director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Moemi Batshabang, is quoted as saying that the drought is one of the worst that the Southern Africa sub region has ever faced in recent years.

The drought, he reportedly said, poses a danger to both wildlife and humans especially in the northern part of the country as it increases the human/animal conflicts.

 “The greatest issue that we are facing is the drying up of the Okavango delta which has been providing water especially for the aquatic animals being the hippos and crocodiles,” Batshabang was further reported as saying.

Reports indicate that a lot of hippos were trapped in muddy waters in the Okavango delta and rivers like Thamalakane which have dried up and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks was forced to rescue and relocate them. Batshabang said it is estimated that 200 hippos were trapped and they had to open water wells and pump water to help them.

“We had to open wells and pumped water into some ponds and had to translocate the 80 hippos and crocodiles from Thamalakane River to where there is water,” he said.

Recently President Mokgweetsi Masisi said government continues to put in place strategies to address agricultural challenges such as drought, pest and diseases. He has since declared 2018/2019 a drought year.

“I have directed the Rural Development Council (RDC) chaired by the Vice President to treat drought as a common frequent occurrence. RDC is in the process of validating a national strategy on drought, a framework that outlines the incorporation of drought mitigation measures in the national development agenda,” the President was quoted as saying.

He said government aims to come up with initiatives for farming in Botswana to empower farmers and assist them as much as possible to enable them to make his country food secure and reduce the import bill to acceptable levels.

Masisi said it needed more than just government in turning around agricultural sector in his country but also farmer’s dedication, commitment and investment.

Meanwhile, Botswana National Beef Producers Union intends to request government to extend the livestock subsidy, until after the end of drought period.

The government has since announced a 35 percent subsidy on livestock feed and supplements, an initiative which will run from June this year to June 30 next year.

The union secretary, Abel Modimo, said after their recent meeting with farmers, a resolution was taken to initiate a meeting with government as farmers still believed that the drought continued to worsen.

 

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