Saturday, September 30, 2023

Department of Wildlife skirts around trophy hunting

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has failed to address concerns that local communities continue to be shortchanged in the annual sale of hunting quotas.

An investigation by a South African researcher Dr. Adam Cruise had found that communities living in and around the hunting areas continue to receive crumbs while big safari companies make huge profits in the sale of elephants.

The report found that community members benefit less than 0.17 USD (less than BWP2) per individual. In response to the article, published by Sunday Standard recently, the DWNP does not address the monetary concerns raised by the report.

“During the 2020 hunting season community based organisations accrued P28m through the sale of quotas whilst in 2022, P26m was accrued to CBOs through hunting quota sales,” DWNP Director Dr. Kabelo Senyatso says in a statement.

“Funds that have accrued to Community Based Organisations after the sale of their quotas are being utilized within those communities contributing to improvement of community livelihoods and creation of employment. The funds accrued are utilized for developing other income generating projects such as accommodation facilities to diversify the income streams and increase job opportunities for the local people.”

The figures do not indicate how much the rich expedition operators gain in comparison, with communities missing out on up to P200 million cumulatively in possible funds from the sales. The DWNP has also dismissed findings by the report that the reintroduction of hunting was not based on any scientifically sound strategy.

The Cruise report further tries to cast doubt on the sustainability of the elephant quota in Botswana, stating that in terms of conservation value, the national trophy hunting quota of 400 elephants is likely to have negative consequences on elephant migration movements, reproductive abilities and conflict incidences. Cruise said current biological research points to a probable catastrophic scenario for elephants if the current elephant trophy hunting quota and elephant management policy continues. However, Dr. Senyatso refuted the claims saying that elephant quotas in Botswana are set at a “very conservative level, typically ranging from 0.04% to a maximum of 0.23 of the total hunt-able population (which is about 75% of the population). This is well below the ‘rule-of-thumb’ of 0.5% of the total population that hunting managers (including in Europe and America) generally use for wildlife off-take, and so there is no basis to the claim that the Botswana elephant quota isunsustainable nor catastrophic for the elephants.”

The Director says the quota for 2022 is 294 and not the 400 alluded to by Cruise. “Considering that Botswana’s elephant population is estimated at 130 000, this clearly demonstrates that the number of elephants hunted will not have any significant effect on the country’s elephant population. Botswana as a member of CITES has a CITES-approved quota, which is negligible when one considers the elephant population in Botswana, and which quota would not have been approved by CITES if there was any suspicions that it would be catastrophic for elephants in Botswana.”

Dr. Senyatso says Cruise should be disregarded as they are part of a crusade against trophy hunting, and against empowerment of local communities to derive benefits from the resources found within their locality. “There is no scientific basis nor
backing for any of the allegations that have been made in the report including the financial figures that are mentioned. The author has not engaged any of the CBO Boards who would have provided the financial information required for such a study.”

The hunting ban was lifted in May 2019 following a recommendation by a Presidential Sub-Committee of Cabinet that was tasked to initiate a social dialogue aimed at reviewing the ban on hunting.

In 2021, the Government developed the Botswana Elephant Management Plan and Action Plan 2021–2026. The management plan detailed actions that the Government will undertake to protect the national elephant population and the potential areas of how communities can benefit from the utilization of elephants.


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