Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has been providing round the clock game protection to Mokolodi Nature Reserve since December last year in an attempt to ward of rhino poachers.
According to the BDF, it would be “an embarrassment to the nation if both rhino and elephant populations, which had been increasing steadily over the years, were to suddenly plummet without Government intervention”.
To the contrary, Mokolodi, situated 15 kilometers south west of Gaborone, is a private reserve managed by the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation and is dedicated to wildlife preservation and environmental education.
President Ian Khama, who is the patron, sits on a board of trustees, along with former President Sir Ketumile Masire, Court of Appeal President Ian Stuart Kirby and former Chief Justice Julian Nganunu.
Major Fana Maswabi, the BDF Protocol and Public Affairs staff officer, says “the BDF is responsible for expenses of its operations as long as it is in the best interest of the Nation of Botswana”.
“The situation in southern Africa is experiencing rampant poaching of protected species such as rhinos and elephants, which are also found in the reserve [Mokolodi]. The increase of poaching of rhinos in South Africa is a cause for concern as the poachers are trans-national, hence the spill-over is likely to be felt in the country,” says Maswabi.
The BDF has also been proving similar game protection at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary owned by the community of Serowe with Khama as its patron. The BDF says due to increasingly lucrative Asia market for ivory, which is used for aphrodisiac purposes, the situation warrants that they should protect local endangered species.
“It is in view of the above that the Botswana Defence Force found it imperative that all Rhino Sanctuaries are put under surveillance by having small rapid reaction units to counter poaching of these species hence our presence at Mokolodi,” the BDF spokesman says.
The Parks Manager at the reserve, Neil Witson, who was in South Africa at press time, was reluctant to speak to this publication.
“I can’t comment. I don’t know what is the intention of your story? Ask the BDF,” he told the Sunday Standard by phone.
The Mokolodi Nature Reserve website says an intensive re-stocking campaign has brought many species of wildlife into the park, including white rhino, cheetah, mountain reedbuck, giraffe, zebra, red hartebeest, sable, gemsbok and a team of hand reared elephants. This range of wildlife joined the indigenous game, such as kudu, impala, hyena, leopard and water buck, which were already living in the area, making the park a rich and varied ecosystem, literally just ten minutes drive from the city.
The elephant walk enables guests to spend a few hours walking through the park literally with the elephants. One of the added advantages of the elephant walk is that the other game is not threatened by a human presence, so with care one can walk remarkably close to the other game in the park.
Mokolodi also offers visitors, mostly from outside Botswana, the chance to track the endangered white rhino. Mokolodi is said to be one of the only places in the world where one has the chance to track these animals in their own environment.
The Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation was formed in 1991 with the aim of promoting wildlife conservation and environmental education for the children of Botswana. The first project of the Foundation was the creation of the Mokolodi Nature Reserve in 1994 on 30 square km of donated land outside Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. In addition to naturally-occurring animal species such as warthogs, steenbok, kudu and a variety of snakes, several species, like the zebra, giraffe, eland, ostrich, hippos and rhinos, have been re-introduced.