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Elephant route to be demined

19 January 2005

AN ancient but now lethal migration route for elephants is to be demined in Angola, paving the way for swelling herds in neighbouring Botswana and Zambia to expand their range, the United Nations said yesterday. Angola, which suffered almost three decades of civil war, is one of the world`s most heavily mined countries, a situation that is taking a heavy toll on both humans and wildlife. And sparsely populated northern Botswana has a pachyderm bottleneck, with a fast growing elephant population that is eating itself out of house and home and coming into conflict with poor rural folk. "An estimated 120 000 elephants, whose numbers are growing at 5?o annually, would be able to move north into Angola and Zambia if the mines were cleared," the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement. Environmentalists say the elephants – famed for their intelligence and long memories – appear to sense the danger posed by the mines, confining them to an area of 107 000 sq km which is being laid to waste by their surging numbers. The unveiling of the initiative coincides with a global conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi which is discussing ways to eradicate the scourge of landmines. UNEP said the US$1 million project, backed by the California based humanitarian organisation Roots of Peace and environment group Conservation International, was part of a wider plan to create a vast transfrontier conservation area which would eventually include Namibia`s Caprivi Strip. This could be a boon Angola`s fledgling eco-tourist industry as the southwest African country attempts to rebuild itself after decades of brutal conflict.

Zimbabwe Independent - 2004/12/03Reuter