Friday, April 3, 2020

Botswana Government fighting a losing battle against rhino poachers

The penny has now dropped.

Botswana’s rhino poaching has now reached industrial levels.

Poaching is not new to Botswana.

But it has now reached totally unprecedented levels.

Poachers, it would seem have found an opening.

They are taking the fight straight to Botswana Government.

And they are meeting little to no resistance.

Poachers are now clearly going for broke.

They want to deplete Botswana’s rhino population, which is the world’s largest outside of confinement.

Most worrying is Botswana Government’s helplessness against the assault.

There is no question that poachers are way ahead of the Botswana Defence Force and the DIS (intelligence services).

Conservation, no doubt requires much more than just armor and body bags.

Conservations requires goodwill and conviction.

In the absence of goodwill and conviction, the exercise becomes a wild goose chase.

This is because poachers are themselves often driven by desperation that include poverty, greed, and the lure of profit if sales go through.

All the above are very powerful motives.

Since the news broke out that poaching of rhinos in the Okavango Delta was on a spike, the Ministry of Wildlife has declared a news black-out on the issue.

Somehow they believe by keeping quiet on the matter or not providing information is a solution.

That is naïve.

Solution lies on halting poaching. And enlisting public and national support.

The situation as it pertains efforts to save rhinos, supposing there are any such efforts, remains opaque.

That of course has not stopped NGOs involved from releasing figures and photographs.

So far close to sixty rhinos have been killed.

It has now reached bloodbath levels.

At this rate it is easy to project a time when naturally roaming rhinos will be extinct.

A clearly unsanctioned policy pronouncement by the Ministry to the effect that Botswana Government will be dehorning rhinos has emboldened poachers and gave them something to run against.

Poachers now want to kill as many rhinos as is possible before dehorning begins.

Most of poachers are known to be from Namibia and Zambia.

They are assisted by a few local people, mainly on planning and logistics.

The poachers, we also know are also armed to the teeth – with military grade weapons that include assault rifles and also with trackers.

By any measure, this is unsustainable.

Botswana’s sovereignty is at question.

Poachers are asking difficult questions on Botswana’s ability to defend its boarders.

And so far there have been no plausible answers.

But there is something else also at stake; Botswana’s integrity.

Government has become overly prickly to criticism over its handling of the rhino carnage.

Yet they also do not seem capable of doing what is expected of them.

Of course the situation has been made worse by politics surrounding it.

First is the direct involvement in conservation matters by former president Ian Khama.

Khama has been brutally critical of government. He is forever posing legitimacy questions against Botswana Government.

He attributes what is happening to inexperience, lack of commitment and poor coordination.

It would be almost impossible to know what motivates him because even without rhino poaching his hostility to this current administration has been well known.

Government immediate task would be to resolve rhino poaching as part of staving off legitimacy and credibility issues.

Rhinos belong to Botswana. But the international community has a clear vested interest in their survival.

Equally the international community has a legitimate expectation that Botswana Government has resources and resolve to protect rhinos.

The second point has been a decision by Government to take arms from the Department of Wildlife anti-poaching unit under the pretext that the unit was in the first instance carrying those arms illegally.

It has been almost two years – possibly longer – since those arms were seized.

That seizure of arms has backfired.

It has handed down the initiative to poachers.

The understanding was that government will put into place legal instruments to regularize the arming of the wildlife anti-poaching unit.

That has not happened. Naturally some sympathy would accrue to people who have maintained that the government reason for taking guns from the Department of Wildlife was from the beginning disingenuous and lacking in honesty.

BDF and the Department of Wildlife have always complimented each other when it comes to poaching.

Now BDF has been exposed. And as we all know, morale at BDF is at rock bottom.

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