Contrary to what former President Ian Khama has stated, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism says that incidents of poaching have actually decreased. Khama uses a different word (“exploded”) and this past week asserted that poaching has “exploded in the last two years and a result is going to cause harm to our country.”
The former president monitors poaching assiduously, releasing through his proxies, the latest information about the latest poaching incidents, sometimes on the very day that they occur. On March 1, he released information about fresh three fresh rhino killings, noting in a Facebook post: “In 18 months, about 120 rhinos with and without horns have been slaughtered.”
While he admits that “poaching of iconic wildlife species including, rhino remains a serious concern in our country” and that “there has been an escalation of rhino poaching incidents in 2019”, the Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Dr. Kabelo Senyatso, is not apocalyptic in his description of the situation.
“The Ministry, in collaboration with other security services, have intensified the fight against poaching and this has borne some positive results, as there has been a significant decrease of such cases since early 2020,” he says.One of those security services is the Botswana Defence Force which has an anti-poaching unit whose operations are the subject of a book by a former United States military attaché at the US Embassy in Gaborone.
Last year, the BDF carried out a number of operations in which poachers (or people so described) were killed.The revelation about the significant decrease in poaching notwithstanding, Senyatso sidestepped an issue that Sunday Standard raised in its written questions to him. Khama’s use of “last two years” has its own significance: that is the rough period that he has been out of presidential office. During his presidency, which lasted from April 2008 to April 2018, BDF was more than aggressive in its implementation of an anti-poaching strategy that the world now knows as the “shoot-to-kill” policy.
“The last two years” basically compares what he did as president to fight poaching with what his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, who ascended the presidency on April 2018, is doing. We sought to crystallise this comparison in terms of the actual poaching numbers – which DWNP has – for the first 34 months of each presidency. The specific question we put to the Department was, “Former President Ian Khama has maintained that poaching (especially of rhinos) “exploded” after he left office.
Does this assertion tally with your own figures? How does April 2008 – February 2011 compare to April 2018 – February 2021 in terms of rhino poaching?”
Senyatso didn’t answer this direct question, instead making the broad statement we quote above. It is as important to point out that while he took issue with Khama for citing the poaching figures, Senyatso didn’t challenge such figures, citing policy that disallows such disclosure.