Is drought on the Limpopo Valley horizon?

By: Limpopo-Lipadi | Date: June 6, 2024 | Reserve

With the effects of El Niño creating extreme weather phenomena all over the world, our Reserve Manager Botilo notices that it doesn’t leave Limpopo-Lipadi unaffected either. Luckily, we have some measures in place to mitigate some of the worst effects, but it will be a very tough couple of months. Read Botilo’s story here:

The 2023/24 rainy season was quite unusual, marked by low and intermittent rainfall punctuated with frequent heat waves. The seasonal mopane worm did not progress beyond the hatching stage as the eggs were fried to a crisp by the mid-October heat episodes. Rain days were few and far between. This El Niño phenomenon lived up to expectations, and its effects will be long-lasting and catastrophic for both wildlife and the livelihoods of local farmers in the Bobirwa sub-district. Livestock in the communal range is already running out of forage as the grass hardly reached full florescence in some areas. Farmers unable to afford supplementary feeds are facing a rude awakening due to the changing climate.

Down the Limpopo Valley, elephants’ movements and behaviour already depict the predicament they are facing. They traverse uncharted territories in search of better forage and, most importantly, water. While they may be welcome in one game reserve like Limpopo-Lipadi, they might not be in the next property. Either they will be shot with a camera or a gun. When natural resources like forage are in short supply, human-elephant conflict is certain. Recently, we witnessed herds of six elephants and another of seven a few days later near the lodges at Limpopo-Lipadi. These elephants seemed unsettled when they realised human presence, suggesting they have been chased away before and aren’t expecting to be treated kindly. Elephants are sentient beings; they can sense danger when they face it. As mega herbivores, their impact will be felt wherever they travel. Unfortunately, elephants cannot choose their friends and foes as they navigate the narrow path of the Limpopo riverbanks, flanked by various farmlands on both sides.

We expect the grazing to deteriorate rapidly, leaving many animals stranded between survival and confrontation with local farmers. Fences will be broken and mended. The idea of a Transfrontier corridor will be tested by dire environmental limits such as this drought. It begs the question: at what cost can we coexist with roaming elephants in the Limpopo River Valley? The silver lining at Limpopo-Lipadi is that we will provide supplementary protein-rich lucerne mix to our rhinos. If push comes to shove, we might have to consider feeding many other species, however expensive. Our animals are generally still in good body condition. We can only hope for early rains in the summer.

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