Elephants at Risk from Proposed Oil Field

Conservationists say that a plan for a new oil field in Namibia and Botswana is threatening the ecosystems and communities in the Kavango Basin and the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site.

The Canadian oil and gas company behind the proposed oil field, ReconAfrica, has leased more than 13,000 sq miles of land and begun seismic exploration. While the Namibian government says that it won't have an impact on the surrounding wildlife, conservationists believe that the exploration and development will disturb elephants and open the area up to more poaching. 

According to the International Energy Agency, if the world wants to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 there can be no new oil and gas development after this year. Environmentalists are worried this new project would not only jeopardize that goal, but could trigger more development in southern Africa.

'Every element of this process — from new roads to drilling sites, refineries to terminals — will devastate the ecosystem and the local communities that depend on it for farming and fishing,' said Nnimmo Bassey, director at the Health of Mother Earth Foundation and chair of Oilwatch Africa, to The Guardian.

Two members of Congress in the U.S. are urging an investigation into the exploratory development, citing National Geographic articles that describe whistleblower complaints that ReconAfrica misled investors and did not obtain the proper permits and approval from local authorities.