The government’s controversial decision not to issue commercial or private hunting licences as from 2014 will lead to at least 500 job losses with 18 jobs cost so far, say industry insiders.
Apart from job losses, the decision is likely to hit the economy hard. Botswana’s hunting industry generates about P336 million annually and more than 500 people are employed at different levels in the safari industry.
In an interview this week, Botswana Guides Association Chairman, Kenson Kgaga, said as stakeholders, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism should have consulted them before taking the decision to ban hunting. Kgaga said currently the industry employees at least 500 people and job losses are inevitable.
“Hundreds of people are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “We were shocked at the announcement. Though we are opposed to the idea, there is nothing we can do because when President Khama has made such announcement, it cannot easily be reversed,” said Kgaga.┬á
He said since controlled hunting was in place there was not need to impose a ban on hunting.
“The move is going to lead to unintended consequences. It will leave us unprotected from predators.
For instance┬á since there will be no hunting, the number of wildlife species is going to double and some will be coming to our cattle posts. Hunting used to keep the wildlife at bay,” he said.
Kgaga said they saw no profit in petitioning the current Minister of Wildlife, Tshekedi Khama, because the Ministry had failed them while Kitso Mokaila was at the helm.
“I have been fighting for a number of issues that affected us while Mokaila was the Minister and my efforts achieved little success. Even if we were to petition the current Minister, nothing will change because they are implementing the same polices under the same Ministry, hence Khama won’t bring any changes,” he said.
For his part Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust Chairman, Haku Galesenngwe, confirmed that they have already retrenched 18 employees. “The decision has really affected some of staff. We have retrenched 18 employees. We hope that they will be absorbed by the companies that we intend to lease some of land for wildlife photography,” he said.
Galesenngwe observed that there was no need to have imposed the hunting ban on all species saying some areas were battling to control overpopulation.
The Botswana Wildlife Management Association is reported to have expressed concern over plans by the Botswana government to introduce a ban on hunting from January, saying the decision was a departure from previous agreements.
┬áWe recommend that government continue to support hunting of elephants in specific areas. The elephant population in Botswana is the single biggest population of elephant in Africa,” the spokeswoman for the association, Debbie Peake, is quoted as saying.
“They are not threatened and are increasing at approximately 4% per annum.
“As they increase annually, they spread into other areas causing conflict with humans and livestock.
“Expansion of this elephant population is also threatening Botswana’s biodiversity,” Peake said.
“The hunting industry has been working with the government for nearly seven years now on the government’s intention to phase out sport hunting in selected areas.
At the outset, the industry was assured by the then minister of environment, wildlife and tourism that hunting of elephants would continue in specific areas.
┬áAccording to a recently completed aerial survey carried out by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has indicated that wildebeest, giraffes, kudu, lechwe, ostriches, roan and tsesebe antelope and warthog populations have dropped significantly over the past 10 years, specifically in the North and eastern areas.
The survey, which was conducted following concerns that some species in key wildlife areas of Botswana were declining, observed 26 herbivorous animals. These included, buffalo, duiker, eland, elephant, giraffe, impala, kudu, springbok, steenbok, warthog, wilder beast, zebra, roan, sable, sitatunga, tsesebe. The survey also included cattle, donkey, horse, sheep, and goats.
The population estimates of animals were counted in the administrative districts and protected areas as well as distribution patterns and population trends for the past 20 years.
The report states that lechwe declined by 59 percent between 1992 and 2012 while springbok and tsesebe declined by 71 percent and 79 percent, respectively, for the same period.
The survey also showed that the total number of cattle in Botswana outclassed the total number of wildlife throughout the surveyed area and inside wildlife management areas.
During the ten-year period, the cattle population increased quite significantly over the years with an estimated number of 3 137 477.
The iconic species, the elephant, continues to increase in number with the estimate having increased to 207,545 – 297 percent increase between 1992 and 2012.
The buffalo, which is also an important species, experienced stable growth over the ten year period with a total number of 61 105 species.
Another species which experienced a significant upward trend is the hippo with a total estimated number of 3 633 by 2012.
The report revealed that the number of sheep and goats combined has significantly increased with an estimated population of 1 652 748.
┬áAn expert from South Africa’s North West University believes Botswana’s ban on hunting may improve revenue from hunting for neighbouring countries, while at the same time, draw attention by poachers to Botswana’s wildlife.
“Kenya followed the same path. They also banned hunting and currently have a huge game poaching problem, so much so that some of their species face total extinction. The strategy proposed by Botswana is short-sighted and is not going to work. Game numbers will decline and this will have a serious impact on the hunting and game farm industry in the country,” said Prof Melville Saayman of the North-West University’s (NWU) Potchefstroom Campus.
“Case studies from South Africa have shown that as soon as the hunting of a species is allowed, it leads to the breeding as well as conservation of the particular species. Botswana’s policy is definitely going to lead to job losses, since it affects professional hunters and other related professions.”
According to Prof Saayman it may, in the short term, benefit South Africa and Namibia, since professional hunters will have to find their means of livelihood elsewhere. However, the long-term picture does not look as rosy.
“As the wildlife in Botswana declines, poachers will also look for another means of livelihood, and they can find it in South Africa. This can place immense pressure on our game industry. Game poachers from Zimbabwe and Mozambique are a big headache. Add poachers from Botswana and it might become a nightmare.”