Botswana’s elephants belong to the subspecies Loxodonta africana – the savannah or bush elephant. African elephants are typically bigger than their Asian relatives, and Loxodonta africana have bigger ears and tusks than Africa’s other subspecies of pachyderm, the forest-dwelling Loxodonta cyclotis. This population is concentrated in two riverine areas of Botswana’s northern reaches – the Okavango Delta and, especially, Chobe National Park. This latter location is believed to support up to 50,000 elephants – with many staying close to the Chobe River for several months of the year. In contrast, the annual ebb and flow of the Okavango Delta results in a population scattered over a wider and somewhat-less-predictable area.
To put this wealth of elephants into continental and recent historical perspective, by 1989 the population of elephants in the whole of Africa was estimated at just 17,000 – having plummeted during the previous decade as a result of widespread poaching. Alarmingly, after a period of relative stability, Tanzania and Kenya have once again started to struggle to control ivory poaching within their borders – and world leaders are paying the situation renewed attention.