Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Future looks bleak for wildlife-areas residents as UK bans trophies

The name “George Eustice” wouldn’t ring a bell in the North West, Chobe, Gantsi and Kgalagadi districts but beginning next year, the person who answers to it will shut off a major source of income for residents in those districts.

Eustice is the Environment Secretary in the British cabinet and late last week, announced plans to protect thousands of the world’s threatened species. In terms of such plans, Britain will ban the importation and hunting trophies from lions, rhinos, elephants and polar bears. The trophy is the animal’s head, skin or any other body part that the hunter keeps as a souvenir. The ban is expected to be introduced in spring (March to May) next year and will also cover more than 1 000 other species which are considered under threat, including the African buffalo, zebra and reindeer.

Rich tourists come to Africa, hunt these animals down and some pose with the carcasses of animals they have killed – something most westerners frown upon. London’s Daily Mail quotes Eustice as saying that “More animal species are now threatened with extinction than ever before and we are appalled at the thought of hunters bringing back trophies and placing more pressure on some of our most iconic and endangered animals.”

In a 2019 interview with Sunday Standard, the Okavango Research Institute director, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, cautioned said that Botswana should “worry much about” a ban of this nature. Such ban is indeed taking shape and in economic terms, is bad news for Botswana. Communities in wildlife management areas are literally making a killing after Masisi lifted the ban on hunting in 2019. There is a select group of mostly western tourists who visit Botswana to hunt big game like lions and elephants, then hack off the heads and take them back home as trophies. On that list would be former Spanish king, Juan Carlos, who had to be airlifted out of the Okavango Delta in 2012 after he sustained a hip injury during an ill-fated lion hunt.

With Masisi having re-opened hunting, communities in wildlife management areas are once more making money from wildlife that they auction to big-pocketed hunters. Last year, Sunday Standard reported that residents of Kazungula, Lesoma and Pandamatenga made P7 million from the sale of a variety of game. For this year, the three Chobe villages were given a quota of 10 elephants, 10 zebra, 10 warthogs, 5 buffalo, 2 eland, 2 kudu, 2 leopard, 5 baboons and 20 impala. All were auctioned off on March 17 this year at the Chobe District Council chamber in Kasane through a joint body (KALEPA Trust) whose name comes that of the three villages. The Trust contracted the services of professional auctioneers from Gaborone, Kgale Auctioneers, to conduct the sale. However, those who bought the animals couldn’t immediately go on the hunt because hunting has been suspended due to COVID-19.

Popular targets for British trophy hunters include big cats, hippos, zebras and monkeys. With the Animal Welfare Bill, which Queen Elizabeth had earlier announced in her speech, having gained legislative passage in the House of Commons, trophies would no longer be allowed into Britain. Resultantly, the number of trophy hunters from Britain into Botswana will drop precipitously and the earnings of trusts like KALEPA will also shrink.

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