Elephant Refugees

We have sadly grown accustomed to having refugees’ stories in the headlines: Syria, Libya, South Sudan, Myanmar, and more.

Humans are not the only ones fleeing their violence-ravaged homeland in order to try to save their lives…elephants too are on the move.

Botswana has been receiving tens of thousands of elephant refugees, and is now home to one third of African elephants.

Elephants are social animals and communicate to one another – they clearly have informed their herds that Botswana is a safe zone.  Botswana invests heavily in its parks that are well protected from poachers.

A reporter, Owen Ullmann, for USA Today observed the elephants gathering for a drink by the river.

“The river marks the border between Botswana and Namibia, and the elephants know not to wander too far from the river bank on the Namibia side because they have no protection from hunters.”


However, just as countries like Uganda and Bangladesh are having trouble housing and providing for the endless stream of refugees, Botswana is also facing difficulty.  The large numbers of elephants means food has become scarce – and the dilemma is exacerbated by drought.

Ullmann writes, “An elephant spends 18 hours a day eating, and many suffer digestive pain from eating growth on coarse branches — the only food left until the rains come any day now. At night, I would hear their trumpeting wails of distress.”






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