Botswana’s hunting ban; the economic aftermath

25 Jun 2017

The hunting ban imposed by the government t some few years back has come back to haunt the livelihoods of the affected communities, fresh economical data availed this week suggest. 

The consequences were recently fully explicated at the Kalahari Conservation Society’s Annual General Meeting(AGM) held at Mokolodi Nature Reserve on June 3rd, 2017.

During his presentation, titled ‘Hunting Ban- The Aftermath’, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, expounded the results of government’s decision to establish the hunting ban. He said community Trusts in the Ngamiland district was left bankrupt after the introduction of the hunting ban. 

According to official reports, Trusts lost money amounting to P7 million in the last twelve months because of the hunting ban. The reports also revealed that close to 200 jobs have been lost because of the ban, and there are fears that more retrenchments could occur.

A report prepared by the Ngamiland Trusts indicate that the Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust experienced a decline in income from P3.5million to P500 000 and shed around 30 jobs; Sankoyo Tshwaragano Management Trust’s income dropped from P3.5 million to P1.8 million, experiencing 35 job losses; Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust’s income fell from P4.8 million to P2.5 million and about 40 people lost their jobs.

The report also indicates that Trusts in other regions of Seronga/Gudigwa, Phuduhudu and Xaixai experienced job losses totalling to about 80 jobs. 

In 2013, the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) issued a ban on hunting of wildlife in all controlled hunting areas in Botswana which was effective from early January this year. The Ministry’s decision came after a detailed research on aerial surveys which were conducted by Mike Chase of Elephants without Borders, whose findings indicated that the country is experiencing a decline in wild animal species. 

MEWT explained that the cause of the decline was likely due to a combination of factors such as anthropogenic impacts, including illegal offtake and habitat fragmentation or loss.

The hunting ban has led to an increase in wildlife populations. This has resulted in high rates of human-wildlife conflict as communities residing adjacent to wildlife ranges clash with wildlife over the damage caused to their livestock and property. Families have been left impoverished after elephants destroyed t their fields. 

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks reports that human-wildlife conflicts rose nationwide to 6,770 in 2014 from 4,361 in 2012.

Communities are said to be developing negative attitudes toward conservation since they feel they cannot conserve what they do not benefit from directly. Prof Mbaiwa went on to say that hunting is a conservation tool which can be used for culling.

He explained this further when responding to one of the AGM attendants’ question which was, ‘why are male and old animals mostly hunted as compared young or females?’. He responded to say hunting should spare animals capable of reproducing which is why females and the young are not hunted.

Conversely, opponents argue that hunting is an immoral and abhorrent act violating animal rights. Hunting was officially made a tourism activity in Botswana in 1960. Americans and Europeans were the most popular groups to visit Botswana for trophy hunting.

In 2014, a decline of several wildlife species in the country was reported to Department of Wildlife and National Parks authorities. This resulted in the introduction of the temporary hunting ban. This move by the government of Botswana attracted a series of criticism from locals as well as foreigners.

Norimitsu Onishi, a New York Times author, reports the hunting ban as a disastrous move of nation acting under the spell of western animal rights activism. While some were against this decision by the government, some said it was a wise decision. The government however, has kept the hunting ban as a temporary measure, reviews it on an annual basis and the temporary ban is still effective to this day.

The Ngamiland district is reported to have still remained the cornerstone of CBNRM in the country with more than twenty (20) legally registered Community Based organizations (CBOs) or Trusts. Eight of these CBOs have been leased Wildlife Management Areas and derive benefits from the use of natural resources within their areas of licensing.

CBNRM is a development approach that supports natural resources conservation and management while ensuring that the rural communities do benefit from the natural resources.