Africa is under siege as poaching of wild animals, especially rhinos and elephants has now reached unprecedented heights. Naturally Botswana is especially a prime target. This is because owing to our conservation success as a country over the years, these species have grown in numbers much more than is the case elsewhere in the continent.
Inevitably the poachers look at Botswana as a country that holds high promises in rewards their ghastly looting escapades. We call on Botswana Government to put yet more resources into anti-poaching efforts. We are confident that when it comes to anti-poaching there is no shortage of political will. We are however worried that given the economic difficulties and also the competing priorities that the country is currently faced with, it may just be possible that anti-poaching efforts might not get the kind of resources that are needed.
Traditionally the Department of Wildlife anti-poaching Units have always been supported by Botswana Defence force. That was very good. Such complimentary efforts have intensified. We however need to point out that was sufficient when the levels of poaching were not as intense as what we are seeing now. Our view is that we have to grow the size of Department of Wildlife anti-poaching units, and also grow their capacity with the latest technology of surveillance and reconnaissance. This is because poachers are today more daring than they ever have been. They also are better armed and better equipped. A good number of them have military background. And because the animals they kill fetch handsome prices where they are sold, we also learn that resources is not an issue for these bandits. For our personnel to defeat them, they need to have an edge above the bandits. Information coming from elsewhere shows that in some cases these poachers even have access to assault helicopters.
Their intelligence is also among the best in the world. And also because they have money, they have in some countries been able to infiltrate and manipulate regular security forces. This we must jealously guard against. We know for a fact that poaching syndicates have been making strenuous efforts to infiltrate our security agencies. To a limited level they have succeeded. A way has to be found to plug the holes and make our anti-poaching efforts seamless. This is not only necessary to defeat poaching itself, but also to protect and safe the lives of our personnel. As we point out, as Batswana we should be proud and excited and also confident of the high levels of political will.
As a result the public has to provide government will all the necessary support that is necessary to defeat the evils and perils facing this nation when it comes to anti-poaching. But that political will has to translate into resources on the ground. There is need for high visibility of our security agents in the game reserves and national parks. Not only that. A way has to be found to create more sanctuaries for more vulnerable species like rhinos. That calls for yet more resources. But we should look at all as investment. We hold a strong view that the current high wave of poaching will not be permanent.
The challenge is in ensuring that by the time it passes our precious wild animals are not extinct. But we need to understand the fundamentals. We need to network with countries and organisations that can help this country. We need to understand who buys the loot from poachers. The little information we have so far indicates that there is a vast market in Asia for poachers. As it is the market for wildlife artifacts where poachers are selling their loot is not lucrative. Because the market is so finitely big, it can swallow all of Africa’s precious species in a few months. This means that what we have in Botswana is almost nothing. Which is why we have to guard it intensely.