Botswana stance on hunting ban closes out opportunities for neighbours

28 Jan 2018

There is a fear that Botswana’s campaign on hunting ban has potential to spark diplomatic row as it closes out opportunities for other countries that are interested in pursuing sustainable trophy hunting in Southern African Development Community. 

Botswana’s campaign on hunting ban has intensified as the international community joins the bandwagon on the ban of trophy hunting.

Botswana first broke ranks with other SADC countries and European Union which sided with pro-hunting at Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting held in South Africa in 2016 calling for a total ban of trophy hunting.

Pundits argue that the country’s move has already divided the SADC countries on the ban of trophy hunting which has received applause internationally.

Okavango Research Centre, Director Professor Joseph Mbaiwa is in support of the sustainable trophy hunting which has economic benefits to communities in areas such as Okavango and Chobe. According to Mbaiwa the communities tend to guard against their resources when they benefit from resources within the areas.

Mbaiwa agrees that the Botswana’s move has a potential to cause a diplomatic row with the neighbouring states that would want to benefit from sustainable trophy hunting.

 ‘’This already has happened with other SADC states countries who were pro-hunting. It was at CITES meeting that Botswana went against those countries and this could cause an impasse between the states’ added Mbaiwa.

Mbaiwa argues that political influence as opposed to the scientific research was at play when the country took a move to ban trophy hunting.

He said that scientific research has to prove that there  is a decline as opposed to organisations that  are on a campaigning trail who seek recognition by representing statistics   without scientific facts as it has happened in Botswana.

Mbaiwa argued that most of the communities trust benefitted from trophy hunting in Botswana.

‘ It is fact that when people benefit from trophy hunting there is a high  possibility that communities can guard against poaching and the studies have shown that .Look now poaching has not stopped because the communities feel that they are not are not part of the  resources that they live within’ added Mbaiwa.

However, Minister of Environment and Wildlife, Tshekedi Khama has defended the move arguing that the move to support photography tourism was beneficial to conservation than tourism.

He maintains that they will continue to support ban on hunting despite that other member states are against the move. He is of the view that although elephants population is increasing in Botswana there was no justification to kill them for trophy hunting.

Khama indicated that most of the elephants that are here migrate from neighbouring countries as a result of poaching. ‘Now they are seeking a safe haven here in Botswana and we count encouraging trophy hunting when the elephants population is threatened in Africa’ added Khama.

Khama also indicated that the statistics shows that he is not aware why other countries in SADC are promoting hunting when endangered species like elephants population is threatened as a result of market demand in Asia.

Khama also indicated that he was not whether this has a potential to cause diplomatic row indicating that they know Botswana position. He said that he does not have reason why Namibia chose to refuse to release statistics to census on elephants population sponsored by American magnate Paul  Gardener Allen who co founded Microsoft with Bill Gates.

The Namibian government has objected results of Great Elephant Census (GEC) a survey spearheaded by a Elephant Without Borders (EWB) in partnership with other organisations which revealed a massive declined in African savanna elephants.

The move not to release the results comes at a time when pundits argue that Elephants without Borders surveys and statistics are politically motivated as opposed to scientific research.

Khama indicated in an interview that he is not aware about the reasons behind the Namibian government refusal to release elephants population as depicted by the study.

Khama say he is unable to guess what could have led to the Namibian government failing to release the elephant population that was supported by American national who is known for his philanthropy gesture worldwide.

 ‘I wouldn’t know why they are against the releasing of the statistics on elephant population in Namibia. My guess is good as yours’ added Khama.

According to Great Elephant Census which was an aerial survey   indicated that there is a massive decline on African savanna elephants.

The GEC stated that the survey conducted covered eighteen countries where Namibia which was part of the surveys refused to release the data to GEC organisers.  The paper does not state the reason why Namibia refused to release the statistics.

It further stated that some of the survey that was planned for Central Africa Republic and South Sudan were postponed in 2015 due to logistical difficulties and armed conflict.

According to the research paper the African elephants were instrumental since population sizes and trends are uncertain or unknown in countries where there are elephants. According to GEC research further indicated that to conserve this iconic species conservationist need timely and accurate data on elephant population.

 The co-founder of Elephant without Borders Mike Chase came under criticism after releasing surveys showing decline of wildlife species which prompted the ban of hunting in Botswana

 Mbaiwa had dismissed the Chase statistics arguing that the statistics were not scientific. Mbaiwa indicated that Chase who was part of GEC was only coming up with these results to score political points.

Mbaiwa argued that the statistics were not scientific since Chase relied on aerial survey as opposed to counting on the ground.

Mbaiwa indicated that as a result of flawed results the government ended up taking a decision to ban hunting based on Chase’s survey which affected many communities who relied on hunting safari.

However, EWB Program Manager Kelly Landen disputed that EWB had ever influenced the ban of hunting. Landen stated that they have never lobbied government to ban hunting. He said that their results were based on scientific findings.