Oil fields of Botswana and Namibia threaten 130,000 elephants

While currently only exploratory, oil projects in the ecosystems of Namibia and Botswana potentially threaten the survival of 130,000 elephants – one of Africa’s last great wildernesses.

The Okavango delta from space. This exploration could destroy one of Africa’s last great wildernesses

The company ReconAfrica is going ahead with its search despite the threats. At the current time, there are roughly 450,000 elephants in Africa, but that is down from millions just a few short decades ago.

ReconAfrica is not as the name suggests an African firm. It is instead a Canadian firm listed in Canada Germany and the USA and has leased land in the Kavango Basin covering 34,000 square km. It is believed that between 60 and 120 billion barrels of oil lie below this land.

The Namibian government argues that they have only granted exploratory licenses, which do not allow any production. Furthermore none of these are in “conservancy or environmentally sensitive areas and will have no significant impact on our wildlife”. Of course the world “significant” is carrying a lot of work here.

If any of the chemicals leak, they could destroy the Okavango Delta in Botswana a large undamaged area in Botswana, and one of the main sections of the KAZA transfrontier park that is currently being set up. It should be remembered that if the KAZA is fully protected, it will guarantee local jobs permanently. Oil and gas work will not: most workers will come in from outside, little benefit will be felt in the immediate area and the likelihood of even a small spill doing permanent damage to one of the last great wildernesses in Africa is extremely high.

Last year hundreds of elephants died because of an algae bloom caused directly by global warming, and here we are discussing extracting billions of barrels of fossil fuel more. The company argues that everything will be done in a way to impact wildlife as little as possible, however this is unlikely to be true.

The IEA (International Energy Agency) said last month that exploration and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year, if the world is to stay within the safe limits of global heating and meet the net zero emissions aims of 2050. As a result, pushing forwards with a project hoping to extract billions of extra barrels of fossil fuel could easily push the planet over the edge.

Fridays for future, a Namibian environmental group have called the oilfield a “carbon gigabomb” and there is concern that if this project gets the go ahead, it will green-light exploration across southern Africa.

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