A source familiar with the inner workings of Botswana’s safari hunting says that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) officials may be unwittingly facilitating the poaching of game.
In terms of established policy and practice, DWNP routinely holds auctions game skins. These skins are from predators killed by either game scouts or farmers and are kept for long periods of time before being auctioned. The source says that around the time that they are auctioned, these skins would be in an extremely bad state. The reserve price for cheetah, leopard or lion skin is P200 and the auction is conducted according to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) export rules.
In terms of CITES rules, a certificate of origin, which proves that a specimen was legally obtained within the exporting country, is needed to export the specimen. CITES exempts personal and household effects when the import or export is part of a household move or accompanying the owner and intended for personal use – as opposed to specimens mailed or shipped separately.
Says the source: “… the DWNP establishes a huge loophole for illegal traders. You see, once you buy some ratty skin on auction, you are handed a certificate of ownership. Throw out the moth-eaten skin and shoot another leopard, cheetah or lion. You now have a certificate in hand and who is going to check that the certificate covers the original skin or a new one?”
This state of affairs theoretically enables an unscrupulous character to export the skin under CITES regulations of “personal and household effects” and sell it in the lucrative overseas market.
Says the source: “A leopard skin in good condition can sell for tens of thousands of US dollar on the legal market – accompanied by a CITES permit so easily provided by the Botswana DWNP with your proof of auction purchase and a substituted skin.”
His own suggestion for how this potential illegal trafficking loophole should be closed is that the skins should be burnt, especially that the government gets next to nothing from their auction sale.
CITES entered into force in 1975, becoming the only treaty to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild.