— A region made impassable by civil war in recent decades will be cleared of landmines to allow huge elephant herds to resume their normal spread in southern Africa, Roots of Peace (RoP) and Conservation International (CI) announced today.
The US-based non-profit organizations are partners in a project to remove landmines sown during Angola’s 26-year civil war from critical access corridors used by elephants between northern Botswana and prime wildlife regions in Angola and Zambia. Once the landmines have been removed, CI proposes to develop ecotourism programs in the area.
The roughly 1,500 square kilometers to be demined are in the Luiana Partial Game Reserve in southeastern Angola (See Map – Page 2). Emplaced during the Angolan conflict that ended in 2002, landmines have formed deadly barriers for humans and wildlife in Cuando-Cubango Province. They prevent area residents from walking safely on their land or cultivating their fields.
Similarly, the 130,000 elephants of northern Botswana cannot re-establish themselves in their historical foraging areas in Angola and Zambia because of the landmines that create a manmade barrier separating the Chobe region from the upper Cuando and Zambezi Rivers. The ranging area of these elephants within the proposed multi-country Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza TFCA) is reduced to a fraction by the buried ordnance.
To restore nature’s balance and human livelihood, landmines and other explosive remnants of war must be cleared from critical parts of the Kaza TFCA to restore safe passage from northern Botswana through Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and into Angola and Zambia. Following a demining effort, elephants will naturally re-establish themselves in the region. Sustainable reserve and ecotourism programs can then be developed to ensure the protection of elephants and other wildlife while benefiting local agriculture and economic development.
The demining will occur in coordination with the National Government of Angola, the Provincial Government of Cuando-Cubango, RoP, CI, and the UN Development Program-Angola. RoP will contract directly with demining organizations and work with Angola-based staff funded by the US Department of State. CI will then take part in ecotourism development based on wildlife conservation within the Luiana reserve, thereby contributing toward social and environmental well-being in the region.