Against the wishes of former president Ian Khama and western animal-rights activists, an auction of 88 wild animals will be held in Kavimba at 2 p.m. this coming Friday.
The entire package includes 15 elephant, 2 leopard, 15 buffalo, 5 baboon, 2 eland, 2 kudu, 20 impala, 5 ostrich, 10 warthog, 1 wildebeest and 10 zebra. The end beneficiaries of the auction (the local Chobe communities) will be playing very little role in the technical process of the auction itself. Registration for the auction occurred last week during week days (16-20th) and those who wish to participate in the auction had to shell out a refundable fee of P250 000. The auction itself will take place this Friday in Kavimba, a village located some 85 kilometres from Kasane. It will be conducted by a company called Auction It (Pty) Ltd on behalf of a local community trust called the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks awards the village community’s trust a quota of animals to be sold. Last year, Pandamatenga’s traditional leader, Kgosi Rebecca Banika, told Sunday Standard that with the money that it made from safari hunting, her village’s trust was able to carry out a number of development projects as well as make purchases it otherwise would not have afforded. One such purchase was a tractor whose ploughing services were rented out to the government, thus earning yet more money for the community.
This is the first time communities are able to auction animals in five years. In 2015, a year into his second presidential term, Khama unilaterally imposed a hunting ban. His successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, has lifted the ban and reinstated the Community Based Natural Resource Management programme that was introduced by President Sir Ketumile Masire. The rationale behind CBNRM is that communities are motivated to conserve wildlife resources in their local environment if they benefit from them. Khama doesn’t believe that to be the case and recently told a British online publication called The Canary that the “current regime” was “poaching” wildlife “and calling it hunting.”
The lifting of the hunting ban has also caused an uproar in the west where animal-rights activists have called for the boycott of Botswana’s tourism to protest the killing of wild animals. For as long as it lasts, the coronavirus pandemic will obviously blunt this ethical consumption tool that these activists are trying to use against Botswana. In the past, Professor Mbaiwa, the Director and Professor of Tourism Studies at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute in Maun, has stated that only an ‘insignificant’ number of tourists (1 percent of photographic tourists) will boycott Botswana to protest the lifting of the hunting ban. Mbaiwa has also pointed to the Kenyan experience to back up his argument that hunting bans are ultimately futile.
“Botswana should learn from Kenya. When you make local communities benefit from wildlife resources in their local environment, there is a likelihood that conservation of such resources will be achieved,” said Mbaiwa pointing to another African country to buttress the latter point. “In the 1990s, Namibia had about 7 000 elephants but after introducing hunting to communities, as we speak, in 2019 had about 23 000 elephants. The rhino population in Namibia was almost zero in 1990 but as we speak, Namibia has one of the largest rhino populations in the world roaming in community areas.”