Extraction Industry’s Hunt for Fossil Fuels Near Okavango Delta Threatens to Trigger “Genocide” of Africa’s Last Elephants

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Extraction Industry’s Hunt for Fossil Fuels Near Okavango Delta Threatens to Trigger “Genocide” of Africa’s Last Elephants

Caption: The African elephant, the planet’s largest terrestrial mammal was recently listed as endangered and critically endangered on IUCN’s Red List; oil and gas extraction projects throughout the African Continent threaten to hasten the animal’s demise. Credit: © Joaquín Rivero, elephant in Okavango Delta. 

  • ReconAfrica’s hunt for fossil fuels in the Kavango Basin threatens Africa’s largest remaining population of savanna elephants with extinction
  • The Canadian company is currently drilling test wells in a region representing a key migratory corridor for an estimated 18,000 elephants; these elephants form a significant portion of a full third of Africa’s last elephants- the 130,000 who call Botswana home 
  • The extraction enterprise follows official reports of hundreds of elephants dying under mysterious circumstance in the Okavango Delta between 2019 and 2020; the suspected causal factor leading to the mass die-off was an excessive bloom of cyanobacteria in waterholes; the phenomena is aggravated by Climate Change
  • May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity; it is critical that the international community amplify the urgency of the looming ecological disaster poised to overtake a jewel in the crown of Africa’s dwindling wilderness, the pristine Okavango Delta; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

May 2021 (Namibia/Botswana/South Africa) – With ~50 million years of evolution buttressing a complex matriarchal social structure, elephants demonstrate heightened intelligence, intense emotions, are self-aware and mourn their dead [1]. Known to be sensitive to drilling-related seismic activity, elephants alter migratory patterns in response [2]. If ReconAfrica’s activities persist within the Delta, the elephants of the Okavango, already refugees of poaching and habitat loss, simply have “no place left to go”.

Where will the giants roam? At present, ReconAfrica is installing “test wells” over an area larger than Belgium; one that straddles Namibia and Botswana. The extraction project represents the world’s ‘largest oil play of the decade’, per Oilprice.com [3]; the region is a critical migratory corridor for an estimated 18,000 African elephants [4]; these elephants form a significant portion of a full third of Africa’s last elephants, specifically, the 130,000 who call Botswana home [5]. ReconAfrica’s extraction efforts in the Okavango region are likely to result in a catastrophic disruption of Africa’s last and largest remaining population of elephants. The consequence is tantamount to the genocide of earth’s last great walkers, to the “genocide” of sentient creatures, millions of years old. 

Anthropogenic causal factors have delivered devastating losses to earth’s biodiversity; two-thirds of all wild animals have disappeared in the last fifty years and just 3% of the world’s ecosystems remain intact [6]. The impacts of heightened Climate Change may have already caused a mass die-off of elephants in the region; between 2019-2020, hundreds of elephants exhibiting symptoms of neurological disorders literally fell to their deaths in the Delta [7]. Scientists believe an excessive bloom of Cyanobacteria, a toxic bacterium occurring in water sources, led to the mass die-off. The bacteria thrive in warmer waters; unmitigated Climate Change will increase the frequency of toxic blooms, exacerbating the risk to elephants and all animals using water resources in the Delta [8]. It is ironic that the Namibian government and ReconAfrica have engaged in a collaborative enterprise poised to release more carbon into earth’s atmosphere by drilling within a pristine ecosystem where hundreds of elephants met their death just months before from a toxic bloom linked to Climate Change. 

“What we see of oil exploration and distribution is the tip of the iceberg. The associated infrastructure and subsequent rendering of the landscape easily accessible does equal damage and leads to bigger risks or losses. The landscape loses its intrinsic value. But that is hard to quantify, unless you can grasp the concept of wilderness.” says Craig Spencer, founder of Transfrontier Africa and the Black Mambas and Retired Head Warden of Balule Nature Reserve and Warden of the Olifants West Region in South Africa.

The Red List status for savannah elephants was recently revised to ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [9]. Yet savannah elephants are not the only species threatened by ReconAfrica’s plans for the Delta. The IUCN reports that ReconAfrica’s operating license covers the habitat of four critically endangered species, seven endangered species and twenty species listed as vulnerable. Among the species affected are the African wild dog, the grey crowned crane, the white-backed vulture, the black rhino, the Temminck’s pangolin and the martial eagle [10].

Ecotourism is a primary source of income for Namibia; it accounts for a whopping 14.1% of Namibia’s GDP [11]. The Okavango Delta itself generates millions each year in sustainable revenue and is a prime tourist destination. These revenues sustain the lives and livelihoods of Namibia’s people. The decision to drill within the Delta has the potential to yield chronic ecological, economic and reputational losses for Namibia. Compounding the problem, roads built to service the extraction project will increase access to the region and render the area more vulnerable to poaching [12]. The outcome of increased poaching will have a devastating impact on the already dwindling rhino population of the Delta [13]. 

Transparency and accountability are recurrent casualties in ReconAfrica’s hunt for oil in the Okavango. Local communities in Namibia report that they have not been informed of operations and were not consulted prior to the production and conclusion of the Environmental Impact Assessment initiated by ReconAfrica [14]. Rural and indigenous communities are on the frontlines of Climate Change; they are the first victims of unpredictable weather, of prolonged droughts, of depleted water sources and of chronic pollution. Indigneous populations are significant sources of knowledge, information and adaptation in the context of vulnerable biodiversity and complex landscapes [15]. The international community must demand a revision of ReconAfrica’s EIA with full stakeholder participation.

ReconAfrica has a license to drill in Botswana, just as it does in Namibia; ~13.1% of Botswana’s GDP is derived from tourism [16]. Will Botswana heed the ecological unravelling in Namibia and establish policies that enhance economic viability through ecotourism, or will it disregard lessons learned?

….It would be a travesty for Botswana, in particular, to get lured away from its proven and very successful developmental pathway, to shiny objects and false promises along the developmental pathway,” said the late globally recognized IPCC scientist Bob Scholes in a recent interview.

The UN Biodiversity Conference is in October 2021 and May 22 is International Biological Diversity Day [17]. It is of vital importance that the international community amplify the ecological significance of the Okavango Delta between May 22 and October 2021. A global policy to ‘keep the wilderness wild’ must be advocated for, envisioned and enforced. COVID-19 has amply demonstrated the indispensable necessity to sustain intact and healthy human-wildlife interfaces. The disruption of wild places and the exploitation of wild creatures leads to the evolution of pathogens, sponsors spillovers and sets the stage for extinction events [18].  

At a time when wildlife populations have plummeted by two-thirds in just 50 years, and Africa’s elephants are critically endangered, we must do all we can to protect and cherish earth’s largest terrestrial mammal, a creature symbolic of Africa’s wild heritage and one who wordlessly captures the human imagination.” – Rosemary Alles, President & Co-Founder of Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER).

The Okavango Region is home to Africa’s largest remaining savanna elephant population, under fire by the oil and gas industry with projects across the continent. Credit: © humanape

Notes to editor 

About The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

GMFER is a global grassroots movement that amplifies the voices of indigenous peoples on behalf of earth’s last wild creatures. We believe that the call for equity must be for all, human and non-human. The peoples’ voice is at the heart of the vision of a livable earth for all; together, we must build human communities that see non-human communities as deserving of justice.

About Friday’s For Future

FFF’s principal goal is to place moral pressure on policymakers, and demand they listen to the scientists, so as to take forceful action to limit global heating. FFF is independent of commercial interests and ideology and knows no borders. FFF protests for our planet and for each other. There is reason to hope humanity can change and avert the worst of climate disasters, and build a better future. 

Established in 2019 Friday’s For Future Windhoek seeks to raise awareness among Namibians of the Climate and Ecological Emergency. The locally lead youth organisation has rallied behind calls to stop oil and gas drilling in Namibia’s treasured Kavango region to avert a true planetary disaster in our own backyard. 




 [4]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/oil-drilling-fracking-planned-okavango-wilderness?cmpid=int_org=ngp::int_mc=website::int_src=hm add::int_cmp=amp::int_add=amp_readtherest

 [5]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/oil-drilling-fracking-planned-okavango-wilderness?cmpid=int_org=ngp::int_mc=website::int_src=hm add::int_cmp=amp::int_add=amp_readtherest














A Thank You From Kulen Forest Elephant

🙏🐘 Jumbo thank you to Elephanatics for their continued support and generous donations.
Cambodia is facing another outbreak of Covid-19 which has caused us to close to visitors again. We are deeply thankful to Elephanactics for helping us during this difficult time.
We remain determined to care for our herd during the pandemic so they can continue to have the life they deserve.
If you would like to donate please follow the link to our GoFundMe campaign, no amount is too small in helping these gentle giants.

Where Have All the Elephants Gone? by Margaret Bear

We are very pleased to share an article written by Margaret Bear for BCnature magazine Spring edition 2021.

Elephanatics was instrumental in assisting with information gathered for this article and we thank Margaret for her deep love and concern for elephants. The Canadian government needs to act immediately and close the domestic trade in elephant ivory in Canada. Our petition is now at 627, 000 signatures. African savannah elephants are now on the endangered IUCN Red List and African forest elephants are on the critically endangered list.

What is Canada waiting for?


Elephant Advocacy with Elephanatics

By: Kellie Diguangco

Elephant Advocacy with ElephanaticsElephanatics Elephant Advocacy Elephants on Parade Middle Grade Monthly Theme year_2021

March was a special month for us. Not only was it OwlCrate Jr’s 4th anniversary, we got to celebrate some of the largest animals in the world! We’ve brought along some friends to help us and you’re here too!

Elephanatics is an elephant advocacy organization based in Vancouver, BC, Canada that offers free educational programs all about elephant conservations. We spoke to President and co-founder, Fran Duthie all about how elephants fight climate change and how you can be an advocate too.

Fran: We are thrilled to be a part of your fabulous ‘Elephants on Parade‘ box! Thank you!
Kellie: Thank you! Climate change is an important issue for everyone and you share on your site that elephants help fight global warming! Can you tell us more about this?
F: The large appetites and feeding habits of African forest elephants lead to more plant mass which stores more carbon to help mitigate climate change. Our Lesson plan, One Mouthful at a Time, addresses this in detail. The graphic below illustrates their role in helping keep their ecosystems in balance by controlling the amount of C02 that gets stored and sequestered.

K: Can you share with us something unexpected you have learned about elephants that most people might not know?
F: I was fortunate enough to visit Kenya in 2019 and was overjoyed at viewing elephants in their wild, natural habitats. I was astounded at their ability to move so quietly. We were 10 feet away from a herd grazing on grasses in the savannah and they were so silent you would never have known they were there except their size gave them away!
The African elephant has 5 toenails on its front feet and 4 on its back feet. Their feet are flat because of a large pad of gristle under each heel which acts as a cushion to absorb sound and helps them to walk quietly. It was amazing to see such a huge animal – an average weight of 6,000 kg – gliding through the plains with such ease. A beautiful sight to behold.
K: Wow! The rules around hunting elephants have changed as recently as 2019. How can we learn to speak up for elephants?
Fran: Unfortunately, trophy hunting of elephants is still allowed in certain countries in Africa. Education is the best way to learn how to speak up for elephants.  Holding marches, signing petitions, writing letters to government officials asking for the trade of elephant ivory to be banned in your country, social media involvement, volunteering for an elephant organization, and sharing Elephanatics education lesson plans! These are some of the ways that can help get the word out about the crises facing both the African and Asian elephant.
K: What does becoming Elephant Ambassador for Elephantics entail?
F: It’s as easy as sending us an email saying you would like to get on board and volunteer some of your time to help us save elephants! For more information on becoming an Ambassador, you can visit our volunteer page. We look forward to hearing from you!
K: Letter writing is a great way to advocate. It’s a way most kids can feel involved and advocate, especially in this time when we are all indoors.
FI agree. We have the lesson plan on Ivory-Free Canada but it is actually a lesson plan that teachers should do with their students. Students learn to compose letters in support of elephant conservation while recognizing letter writing is an important civic action.
It is part of the One Mouthful at a Time Lesson Plan which is a super fantastic lesson plan that deals with how elephants are allies against climate change.
K: Thank you, Fran! 
Find out more and become an elephant advocate on their website or give them a follow on Instagram here.
Our ELEPHANTS ON PARADE box is now available for purchase in our past boxes shop!
Subscribe to OwlCrate Jr today at www.owlcratejr.com!


In a new paper led by Mara Elephant Project‘s Director of Research and Conservation Dr. Jake Wall, new research has found that while elephants can live almost anywhere in Africa, their range is restricted by the growing human footprint and the available protected areas.

Key findings from the study include:

* In antiquity, elephants likely were extant across nearly the entire continent.
* Human activity largely shapes the behaviour and distribution of modern elephants.
* 62 % of Africa has suitable habitat for elephants, but the animals use just 17% of that habitat and are absent – for now – in the remaining 83%.
* Savannah elephants have larger ranges than forest elephants.
* Males of both savannah and forest elephants have larger ranges than females.
* Approximately 57% of the elephant range is currently outside of protected areas.
* Out of all the factors influencing elephant range, it is human influence and the amount of protected area that had the greatest effect.
* Both an ethic of human-elephant coexistence, and effective protected areas, are essential to securing their future.
Read paper here.
Elephant Range - Current Biology April 2021.mov
Elephant Range – Current Biology April 2021.mov

Elephants – Economies – Ecosystems = Biodiversity

What is the value of protecting Biodiversity?

“Biodiversity is an all-encompassing term for what many regard as nature-related risk. It includes the food we eat, the soil, clean water supplies, landscapes, and forests. Nature-related risk affects all those who rely on nature’s services in their supply chains, from fashion, to farming and construction. Today our concern is climate risk; tomorrow it will be about biodiversity and everything that is beyond carbon.”

cr. Andrew Mitchell Co-Founder, Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Founder of Global Canopy and CEO of Equilibrium Futures

Please sign this petition to #EndWildlifeTrade – https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3015



Elephanatics Spring Newsletter 2021

Elephanatics Newsletter – March 2021

Welcome to the first edition of our newsletter for 2021! Spring has sprung and with it, new life, new beginnings, and new challenges blossom. We hope you’re as happy as we are, to see a little more sun these days. There’s lots to share with you, so let’s jump right in…

Ivory-Free Canada Petition Update
At the time of this writing our petition is up to 623,209 signatures! We have presented the signatures to the Environment Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, and encouraging talks have taken place since then. We hope to update you in the next newsletter. We are still hoping for more signatures to send to the minister, so please share with your friends: www.change.org/ivoryfreecanada.
Elephanatics & OwlCrate Jr Unite to Educate Kids
OwlCrate Jr is an award-winning subscription book box for kids aged 8-12. Each box includes a new novel, a letter from the author, plus cool activities, and fun goodies. Their theme for the March box is “Elephants on Parade”! While we can’t reveal the name of the book just yet, it is a story about the magical connection between elephants and humans.

Each March box will contain an Elephanatics’ fact sheet and bookmark. You can subscribe for 1, 3, or 6 months at owlcratejr.com and use READMORE2021 to save 15% off a new subscription.

Teachers and Educators: For a variety of elephant education lesson plans for youth aged 8 to 14 (including how elephants fight global warming), books, videos, and apps, please visit our website: www.elephanatics.org/education/

Canadian Corp Drilling for Oil in Africa
ReconAfrica is currently drilling for oil and gas in an area of over 35,000 square kilometres in Namibia, northwest of the Okavango Delta. The drill site is a watershed of the vast river delta – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s last great natural sanctuaries. It’s home to many wildlife, including hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lions, leopards, giraffes, and rhinos.

This is disturbing for ecological, environmental, and human rights reasons. Of great concern, is the overlapping of the Namibia drill site with an elephant migration corridor between two national parks. On top of this, ReconAfrica will carry out a seismic survey in a 2nd site in Botswana, beside the same migration route. Biologists are concerned the seismic survey’s sound waves will negatively affect elephants, which communicate via low-frequency seismic waves “heard” through their sensitive feet.

ReconAfrica’s headquarters are in Elephanatic’s own city of Vancouver, BC. Elephanatics is supporting international efforts to curtail the drilling by bringing awareness to the issue.

Please sign the petition here. You can read more about the drilling from National Geographic here

BackyardBio, Elephanatics, and the International Day of Biodiversity
Calling all Teachers and Educators! Get your students involved in BackyardBio!

BackyardBio is an event created by the irrepressible Jesse from Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants – we love that name! It connects families and schools from all over the world, by sharing their local flora and fauna with each other. This fun activity is built around the International Day of Biodiversity on May 22. For more info – www.backyardbio.net.

1. In early May, explore your backyard, neighbourhood, or park and take photos of as many different species of plants, fish, birds, mammals (you name it!) as you can.

2. Share your pics all month long on Twitter or Instagram with #backyardbio. Follow the hashtag to see amazing images from around the globe!

3. Download the Seek app at www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app. Point the Seek Camera at plants or animals and the image recognition technology will identify them – kind of like Pokemon Go for nature! Add more species to earn more badges.

4. Register your family, school class, or group at www.backyardbio.net/how-to-take-part for more resources and to connect you with others worldwide.

Enjoy the Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants’ video with Elephanatics – https://youtu.be/1-5-R616REU

The Jane Goodall Act in Canada
It’s not every day you can help secure a major improvement to the lives of sentient animals, including elephants, around the world. The Jane Goodall Act, S218, if passed, will be one of the strongest animal laws in history. Read more about the proposed legislation here.

If passed, this bill would transform animal protection in Canada. Please join us and ask the Senate to protect great apes, elephants, whales, and dolphins. It will take you a total of 19 seconds. Seriously. Go to https://janegoodall.ca/join-us/campaign/the-jane-goodall-act/ and fill out 4 boxes, then hit “Add Your Voice”. The Jane GoodalI Institute – Canada, is a coalition partner of our Ivory-Free Canada campaign.

Asia for Animals Virtual 3D Conference
2021 Elephanatics is a supporting member of the Asia for Animals coalition – hundreds of respected animal welfare organisations that have a shared focus on improving the welfare of animals in Asia. Tickets to their biennial conference “Welcome to a Better Tomorrow” on April 24 & 25 are only US$20 each at https://www.asiaforanimals.com/conference-2021. Topics include ending live animal markets, animals’ roles in climate change, and moving away from animal tourism. If your animal welfare organisation is interested in free membership of the AfA coalition, check out https://www.asiaforanimals.com/join-afa.
* Elephanatics has its own online shop for clothing and a variety of other items! If you love elephants and want 100% of your item purchased to go directly to saving elephants, please visit our store at:

DYK – A group of elephants is called a herd, but also a “memory” of elephants. Very fitting, don’t you think!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy!

The Elephanatics Team

OwlCrate Jr Educates Kids About Elephants – Elephanatics Trumpets!

OwlCrate Jr is an award-winning subscription book box for kids aged 8-12. Each box includes a new
novel, a letter from the author, plus cool activities, and fun goodies. Their theme for the March box is
“Elephants on Parade”! While we can’t reveal the name of the book just yet, it is a story about the
magical connection between elephants and humans.

Each March box will contain an Elephanatics’ fact sheet and bookmark. You can subscribe for 1, 3 or 6
months at owlcratejr.com and use READMORE2021 to save 15% off a new subscription.

Teachers and Educators: For a variety of elephant education lesson plans for youth aged 8 to 14
(including how elephants fight global warming), books, videos, and apps, please visit our website:


OwlCrate Jr logo
March’s ELEPHANTS ON PARADE Box Is Available Now!


We are celebrating Earth’s largest living land animal next month: the majestic elephant! March’s book pick is an inspiring contemporary story all about family, being separated from loved ones, the heartwarming impact of human-animal connections, and (of course) elephants! This story will be perfect for fans of The One and Only IvanCounting By 7’s, and Because Of Winn-Dixie.

In addition to a fantastic new novel, this box will include a second book and a bunch of fun and useful goodies for elephant fans! Keep reading for our first item sneak peek!

Save 15% on a Monthly, 3-Month, or 6-Month subscription at owlcratejr.com! Enter code READMORE2021 at checkout.

Photo by @bookskidslove_

We’re adding to our growing collection of stuffies this month, with an extremely snuggly 8″ plush animal from Aurora World! Aurora has been making high quality stuffed toys for 40 years and we absolutely love their products.

We’ve included 3 other plush friends over the last 4 years, all of whom are pictured here! Which is your favorite?

Photo by @caveat.lectors

Help Sponsor Mara Elephant Rangers

Elephanatics Supports Partner Organization MEP for #HolidayGiving

Dear Loyal Supporter,

Elephanatics has joined forces with partner organization Mara Elephant Project for the #HolidayGiving season.

We are asking for your support this year to assist MEP in providing for an additional 10 Loita rangers. The Loita Plains and pristine Loita Forest are in immediate need of additional resources to help mitigate human-elephant conflict, reduce elephant poaching, and increase protection of elephant habitat. With the onset of COVID-19 and the lack of tourism, the need for more rangers to protect these pristine areas is even more crucial. The poaching and illegal trade of Ivory has increased substantially because of the loss of tourism in both Asian and African countries. People are suffering greatly from economic losses. The increase in human-elephant conflict is rising as is the bushmeat trade. With no eco-tourism dollars supporting local communities, people are reverting to poaching to feed their families and in turn, is creating national security and stability issues due to natural resources being threatened with overexploitation and species extinction. Rangers are on the frontlines fighting these issues. The importance of preserving our biodiversity and wildlife couldn’t be more apparent as a raging pandemic has proven. Globally, we need to protect our wildlife and their ecosystems for the sake of our own species survival.

Mara Elephant Project’s Maasai rangers are at the forefront of anti-poaching operations, human-elephant conflict mitigation efforts, and stopping deforestation through boots on the ground initiatives. The rangers live out in the field for up to two months at a time in mobile camps. Rangers are the backbone of MEP’s organization and their presence in an area increases the protection for wildlife, communities, and habitat.

The 10 new MEP rangers are responsible for responding to conflict and collecting information on all conflict incidents to analyze in MEP’s EarthRanger system. The information gathered, when combined with the elephant movements from collared elephants, will be used to inform spatial planning to protect elephant habitat and test and modify different conflict mitigation techniques within the community. In addition, they will be tasked with increasing security in the area for wildlife by reducing poaching and illegal habitat destruction activities. These 10 men and women were recruited from Loita because MEP works closely with local communities to protect Kenya’s iconic elephants and the habitat upon which they depend.

Your donation will go directly towards funding these rangers who are vital to the protection of elephants and their habitat during this critical time. 

52799534_1606364445614641_r.jpegAbout Elephanatics:
Our mission is to assist global elephant conservation efforts by educating Canadians about issues of ivory poaching, habitat loss, and the continued exploitation of elephants by humans, and to connect Canadians directly with elephant conservation partners in Africa and Asia.
The MEP connection comes from Dr. Jake Wall, co-founder, and African elephant specialist, with Elephanatics. Dr. Wall has worked as the Director of Research and Conservation at Mara Elephant Project since 2019.

For more information on Mara Elephant Project please visit: maraelephantproject.org

Please consider a gift this season to assist Mara Elephant Project.

Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-sponsor-mara-elephant-rangers

Marc Goss | CEO Mara Elephant Project
Fran Duthie | Elephanatics Team

*Disclaimer: Donations to Elephanatics are not tax-deductible.


While this team is a necessary expense for MEP to incur, your support in this endeavor to expand our ranger presence is vital to ensure MEP can increase our areas of operation and our net of protection.


Elephanatics Masks for Any Occasion

Shop Early for the Holiday Season. Get your Elephant Lover a gift they won’t forget!

Order Now! 10% OFF MOST ITEMS. Check out our site for many more items to choose from.