It is not an idea that former President Ian Khama, who recently described hunting as “poaching” would be receptive to but a University of Botswana expert says that there is really no tension between hunting and photo-tourism.
“I have always believed that hunting and photo-tourism should complement each other,” says Professor Mbaiwa, who is Director and Professor of Tourism Studies at UB’s Okavango Research Institute in Maun.
His analysis is that photo-tourism can be reserved in core wildlife areas while conservation hunting can be done in outer marginal areas where photo-tourism is not attractive. Mbaiwa is among a group of scientists and researchers who support President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decision to lift a hunting ban that was introduced by his predecessor, General Ian Khama. Mbaiwa’s own thinking is that lifting the hunting ban ultimately benefits communities in wildlife areas.
“The CBNRM programme will thrive and communities in marginal areas will benefit more from wildlife and they will be obliged to conserve wildlife resources in their local environment,” says Mbaiwa referring to the Community-Based Natural Resource Management which was introduced by President Sir Ketumile Masire.
In demonstrating the futility of the hunting ban, Mbaiwa points to Kenya where the government banned hunting in 1979 but wildlife resources continue to decline at an alarming rate.
“Botswana should learn from Kenya. When you make local communities benefit from wildlife resources in their local environment, there is a likelihood that conservation of such resources will be achieved,” Mbaiwa says and points to another African country to buttress the latter point. “In the 1990s, Namibia had about 7 000 elephants but after introducing hunting to communities, as we speak, in 2019 had about 23 000 elephants. The rhino population in Namibia was almost zero in 1990 but as we speak, Namibia has one of the largest rhino populations in the world roaming in community areas.”
Mbaiwa maintains that hunting is a conservation tool and should be used to complement photo-tourism.
“These are two land-use options which should complement each other. In addition, hunting in Botswana is selective and controlled. It is not a massacre of wildlife species as these guys claim it to be. Hunting is a conservation tool,” he says, “by these guys” referring to western animal-rights activists who have launched a smear campaign against him.