‘When elephants fight’


THE adage ‘when elephants fight the grass suffers’ could have taken a true meaning here in Livingstone had the normally peaceful giants decided to lose their temper due to heavy human traffic and cause mayhem, but that has not been the case.
The huge human traffic has gone largely ignored by the temperamental elephants that have a history of reacting badly to crowds and the continued ‘peace’ has pleased an alert Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) security detail that is standing by for any eventuality.
ZAWA is especially happy that elephants, popularly known as jumbo, in folklore refused to be annoyed or agitated by an unusually heavy human interaction that appeared to constantly encroach on its space in the Musi-o-Tunya National Park.
The park, for those far away from Livingstone, is in fact home to the Sun International Hotels, the main venue of the UNWTO general assembly.
ZAWA has, however, not taken the peace for granted and have taken every opportunity to warn delegates and residents to give way because elephants actually have the right of way in this case.
ZAWA officials told the Daily Mail that they are happy that animals in the park have not been ‘overwhelmed’ by the increase in the number of visitors and vehicles passing through their corridors.
The main Musi-o-Tunya Road, which leads to the Victoria Falls and several lodges where hundreds of delegates are accommodated, weaves through the Musi-o-Tunya National Park, the sanctuary for elephants, monkeys and giraffes, among other members of the wild.
ZAWA warden Brighton Kasamu said the animals, especially the smaller ones, are behaving well and are adapting to the change in the environment. Some of their corridors have been overwhelmed by traffic.
The Musi-o-Tunya road is not short of motorcades carrying UNWTO officials and ordinary delegates moving to and from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“We haven’t seen or recorded any strange behaviour from our animals, especially the monkeys at the Victoria Falls border which are already used to seeing lots of people around them anyway,” Mr Kasamu said.
But ZAWA has observed that some motorists, especially taxi drivers ferrying delegates or other clients to and from the UNWTO general assembly venues, are blocking the elephant corridors, a situation which may agitate the animals.
Mr Kasamu urged motorists to avoid making stopovers or allowing their clients to take close-up pictures when elephants are crossing the roads, saying this may agitate them.
He urged motorists and pedestrians to avoid crowding the elephants and give them way as they cross the Musi-o-Tunya Road which is their traditional root.
“We’ve observed that motorists, especially in private vehicles, are dropping from their vehicles and allowing passengers to get to the animals for a photo-shoot. Overcrowding elephants is not a good idea,” he said.
Mr Kasamu, however, assured delegates and locals that ZAWA has devised measures to ensure that the “friendly” elephants do not also disturb the flow of traffic.
“They (elephants) sometimes get overwhelmed by the heavy presence of people, but we have blocked some of their traditional roots so that they don’t block traffic on the main road.  But when these animals go to places like hotels, especially at the deck of the Royal Livingstone Hotel, guests shouldn’t be too scared because elephants are actually friendly,” he said.
Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe are hosting the general assembly which started last Saturday and runs up to this Friday.
The 2013 UNWTO general assembly has the largest attendance in the history on the general assembly, with about 750 delegates and more than 300 other officials at the conference.
Delegates to the assembly yesterday moved from the Victoria Falls Town, which was the official opening venue, into Livingstone, where the event will be closed.