Saturday, December 3, 2022

Game ranching activities halted over Foot and Mouth outbreak

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) recently announced the suspension on capture and distribution of animals for game ranching purposes.

The Ministry said the suspension is due to movement restriction imposed on cloven hoofed animals across the country. “The distribution of animals which commenced on the 20th of April 2022 has been halted due to suspected Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) cases, as such, movement of cloven hoofed animal’s permits have been suspended until further notice.”

The statement said since April 2022 to date, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has distributed a total of four hundred and sixteen (416) animals to sixty-seven (67) beneficiaries country wide.

“The exercise will therefore continue from 20th April 2023 to 30th August 2024 capture season. Until then, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks will continue to receive applications, assess farms for readiness to receive wildlife and monitor farmers who have already benefited from the programme.” Botswana recently introduced game farming as part of government’s citizen empowerment initiatives.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced on May 30, 2020 that his government would allow farmers in the country to keep small game on their farms to encourage locals’ participation in agro-tourism.

The guidelines state that interested individuals are expected to make an application to the Director of Wildlife and National Parks accompanied by a project proposal, documenting the intentions of the applicant. “Any Motswana with a field can apply for keeping of wild animals on their land. The person should provide the following; Certified copy of National Identity , certified copy of proof of property ownership/lease/ title deed, letter of consent, if borrowed, size of the land, description and coverage of vegetation in the field  and existing developments in the area if any (a sketch plan would do),”reads part of the guidelines.

To start up the project one would stock up with the help of other existing ranches through donations, raffle if quota is available from the wild and government institutions if available.

There have been concerns from those opposed to the government’s new initiative that cases of wildlife poaching in Botswana could increase due to allowing game farming on land that has no security or fencing to control the movement of wild animals.

Farmer’s Weekly magazine quoted the director of PATH, a wildlife conservation organization in Botswana Dr. Pieter Kat, as having said the initiative might not benefit small farmers, and warning that it could encourage an increase in cases of poaching in the country due to a lack of fences.

Animals that jump, such as eland, needed to be contained by fences of up to 2,4m in height, the magazine wrote.

“For digging animals like warthog, fences need to be reinforced low down and even underground. No such requirements are listed for Botswana. Anyone with a large landholding can now come and collect their start-up wildlife stock,” Kat told the magazine. Transportation of animals from a collection site to a farm should be conducted by specialized personnel and vehicles but no such requirements are listed in the Botswana case, the PATH Director said. After a two year break Botswana confirmed an outbreak of FMD in the North East District (Zone 6b) on the August 24, 2022.  Countrywide movement restriction was imposed, including suspension of exports and other economic activities such as agriculture shows and animal auctions.  “While disease control measures in particular livestock product and movement restrictions have devastating impact on the economy, they are vital to controlling the outbreak and prevent its spread to other areas,” Botswana’s Assistant Minister of Agriculture Molebatsi Molebatsi said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper