President Ian Khama has expressed fears over the possibility of rhino poachers from South Africa coming into Botswana.
Speaking during a handover ceremony of the four white rhinos at the Orapa Letlhakane Mines (OLM) on Friday, the President said that in South Africa last year alone 400 rhinos were killed by poachers, a rate which he said is worrisome.
“We are even aware that these poachers are now eyeing Botswana rhinos as their next target. It has come to our attention that some have dispatched a covert expedition to locate rhinos for operations,” he said
The President said that the government has resolved to put stern measures which include such culprits being rendered prohibited immigrants in Botswana. He added that the government will continue to strengthen its security forces to protect the endangered animals. Khama went on to warn poachers saying that should they continue to defy the laws of Botswana they will have to face the wrath of the law.
“They need to be warned that in Botswana, wildlife conservation is a national priority,” he said.
Khama also said that poaching in Botswana has become a menace over the years to both the wildlife and tourism industry. He further said that poaching is a criminal act which is actuated by selfish interest for profit with no regard for the national interest and the future of wildlife. He said that in the 1970’s, Botswana was famous for its black and white rhinos population which has now declined at an alarming rate.
“By 1992, it was estimated that only 19 white rhinos remained in Botswana, while the black rhino was classified as locally extinct,” Khama said.
The welcome ceremony of the rhinos was part of the mine’s strategy to promote environmental conservation. The four rhinos were procured by the mine from the Khama Rhino Sanctuary Trust (KRST).
The event was also graced by the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, the Debswana Board of Directors led by the Chairman Eric Molale and the Member of Parliament for Boteti North, Slumber Tsogwane.