Botswana lifts the hunting suspension to global uproar

Following the Botswana government’s June 2018 review of the hunting ban, the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks has lifted the hunting suspension on some of the country’s animals.

Speaking at a press briefing in the capital, Gaborone on 23 May 2019, the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila said the Botswana government has lifted the hunting ban on some of the wildlife animals that are not endangered. One such animal is the elephant, whose numbers have spiralled way out of control.

Kitso Mokaila

“Some of the findings of the Cabinet Sub Committee on Hunting Ban and Social Dialogue were that there was a concern that a large number of animals migrate to neighbouring countries and never come back. The number and high levels of the Human-Elephant Conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing.”

Minister Kitso Mokaila

Mokaila noted that due to the hunting suspension, Botswana’s predators have increased and are causing immeasurable damage. The negative impact of the hunting suspension on livelihoods, particularly for community-based organisations that were previously benefiting from the consumptive utilisation include the animals killing livestock.

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Kitso Mokaila said the lack of capacity within the Department of Wildlife and National Parks leads to long response time to problem animals control reports.  The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted.

“On the basis of these issues, the government has assessed all these recommendations and accepted all but one recommendation which makes reference to the regular culling of elephants and establishing an elephant meat canning industry including the production of pet food. This was rejected because culling is not considered acceptable given the overall continental status of elephants. Rather, a more sustainable method such as selective cropping should be employed,” says the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism.

Mokaila said hunting would be allowed on a small scale on a strictly controlled basis, with fewer than 400 elephants licenses to be granted annually as has been approved by CITES.

Mokaila said priority would be given to Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and Trusts in the allocation of hunting quotas, with over 50 percent of quota to be given to CBOs and Trusts. Hunting will be reinstated only in designated Concession Hunting Areas (CHAs).

“There will be equitable distribution of the citizen hunting quota and the citizen hunting license is not transferable. An effective hunting quota allocation system is to be developed based on science. Animals to be included in the hunting quota shall be those currently reflected in the Schedule 7 of the Wildlife and National Parks Act of 1992,” Mokaila said.

For his part, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Felix Monggae said no special game license would be reinstated due to the existence of other government social safety nets to cover for such.  

Monggae said a legal framework that will create an enabling environment for the growth of the safari hunting industry would be developed and the Botswana elephant population will be managed within its historic range. An effective community outreach programme within the elephant range for the mitigation of the Human Elephant Conflict will be undertaken.

“Strategically placed Human-Wildlife Conflict fences will be constructed in key hotspot areas, game ranches will be demarcated to serve as buffers between communal and wildlife areas and compensation for damage caused by wildlife, ex gratia amounts and the list of species that attract compensation will be reviewed and other models that alleviate compensation burden on government be considered,” says Felix Monggae.

It emerged from the briefing that all wildlife migratory routes that are not beneficial to the country’s conservation efforts will be closed. The Kgalagadi south westerly antelope migratory route into South Africa will be closed by demarcating game ranches between the communal areas and Kgalagadi Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). 

“In all the actions taken, whether for or against any recommendations, the guiding principles were the need to conserve our natural resources, the need to facilitate the human-wildlife co-existence; and the scientific management of our elephants and other wildlife species,” Monggae said.   

Additionally, the government is to continue monitoring the situation and the periodic review of the recommendation approved.  In doing so, Government shall endeavour to consult the affected communities, community leadership, non-Governmental Organisations and others. 

Union européenne African Parks Network (APN)

The Botswana Government is convinced that tourism can be fully exploited sustainably to benefit the economy.  Monggae highlighted that sustainable tourism calls for the development of tourism policies that assure the safeguarding of social, cultural and natural resources to guarantee that these assets can meet the needs of present and future populations and tourists. 

“It is for this reason that the Government has also approved strategies aimed at facilitating citizen participation in the tourism sector. 

The strategy has several models which advocate for, among others, the allocation of existing vacant concessions and identified sites earmarked solely for citizen companies, joint ventures, community trusts and community of citizen consortia,”  Monggae said. 

Where existing concession operators issue over 25 percent of shareholding to citizen companies, consortia, joint ventures or community trusts, a fixed period lease of 30 years is to be issued under the new lease holding. Land allocated to citizens through the tourism citizen economic empowerment model is used as collateral by allottees to secure shareholding and or partnerships.

By Meekaeel Siphambili – YourBotswana Guest Blogger

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