The relatively unknown but lucrative business in lion poaching destined for the Asian market has attracted the attention of the country’s spy organization ÔÇô the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS).
Although the DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi would not immediately deny or confirm that his organization is investigating such, the Sunday Standard can reveal that a cabinet Minister (names withheld) working with associates is under investigation by the DIS.
The Minister in question, who was asked by this publication what he knew of the investigation, claimed no knowledge of it let alone if lion poaching was something Botswana must be worried about. Apparently, the minister has been under investigation since information reached the DIS about two years ago according to intelligence sources.
“This is the first time I hear about it,” the minister in question exclaimed when asked by the Sunday Standard.
The Sunday Standard understands that cub lion poachers, some of whom enter the country as tourists, transport cubs in chartered planes while those who enter the country driving contain the cubs in empty fuel containers.
Recently, President Ian Khama said intelligence indicated Botswana was under the radar of international rhino poachers.
A famous conservationist, John Varty, has been widely quoted as saying that lion carcass would easily fetch some US$ 15 000 owing to the scarcity of tigers in Asia. The international media has reported that lion bones are most sought after as they are being used as a replacement for tiger bones to concoct traditional Asian medicines like tiger brew wine because of the demise of the tiger populations in the region. Lions are said to be already poached in the northern section of the Kruger National Park in South Africa to feed the surging demand in Asia.
The Botswana Police Service (BPS) would not deny that lion poaching is a problem in Botswana saying the competent authority is the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
“There is a market, a need for lion body parts and this will grow in exactly the same manner as the market for ivory and rhino horn has grown,” the South African media reported one Dr Herman Els, the manager of hunting and conservation at the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association as having said.
“To continue denying the fact that there’s a market for rhino horn and lion bone continues to let prices be sky high, because these commodities become scarcer,” Els was quoted as having said.
“The Chinese believe there’s a medicinal value attached to these animal parts and will continue to use them,” said Els. “It doesn’t help to fight the Chinese. They’re part of a cultural system that is older than 3 000 years. To say they must change their ways, well, that’s imperialism,” he was further quoted as having said.
He said any market that supported the farming of lions in SA to trade in Asia would help eradicate canned lion hunting.