We love a bit of problem solving here at Natural Selection, so we were nothing short of delighted by the launch of the brand new Elephant Express buses in the Okavango Delta panhandle in Botswana.
These sparkling (for now at least) buses provide the perfect solution to a problem that had been bothering residents in the area for a while. The panhandle is punctuated by schools, villages and clinics, and it also happens to be a stretch that’s used heavily by elephants. An elephant highway if you will. Unfortunately, having both elephants and the local community use the route has resulted in fatalities, so the buses serve an extremely important purpose.
The two buses were launched on 17th January by our partners and us in order to safely transport school children who would otherwise have to navigate these dangerous thoroughfares.
This initiative is the first of its kind in the Delta, and the result of painstaking discussions between the non-profit organisation EcoExist, the Okavango Community Trust, local community representatives, and us – the sponsors. The Ele Express buses form part of wider plan for tourism to help mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
Our buses offer a conflict mitigation strategy that celebrates the elephants as part of Botswana’s heritage and acknowledges the benefits they have brought to the country’s thriving tourism industry. The buses are adorned with beautiful illustrations of these majestic beasts and equipped with educational material, so they relay the crucial message that we can find ways to live alongside wildlife and mutually benefit. During the school day, the buses are also used to transport clinic patients and doctors.
Visitors to Mapula Lodge will be benefiting this initiative and Natural Selection’s partner, Uncharted Africa, will work alongside Ecoexist and the Okavango Community Trust to run the buses. Other sponsors include Halfway Toyota who sourced the buses at a reduced cost and who will be offering free maintenance labor indefinitely. SATIB who is a regional tourism insurance provider is sponsoring the insurance along with its partner the Botswana Insurance Company.
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