The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootsositse has decried the fact that there is relatively little capacity to enforce the Agro-chemicals Act of 1999 and subsidiary 2003 legislation.
This has seen careless use of the chemicals to poison wildlife including endangered species like vultures by farmers who use them as bait for carnivores. Environmental conservation and the tourism industry are negatively impacted in the process.
In a report he wrote following the discovery on 22nd October of at least 55 dead White-backed vultures, near Mmadikola village, Kootsositse highlighted thatthe law prohibits killing of vultures in Botswana and that one could face USD500 fine or a year in prison or both. Yet no action has been taken against culprits to date. Poisoning is suspected to be the cause in the above incident.
BirdLife Botswana, he stated: The Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Raptors Botswana and other like-minded organisations have joined hands to further investigate other related factors surrounding the incident.
“This is not the first time that a significant number of vultures are found dead around this area. Prior to this current incident the last report was in 2015 near Mopipi village, also not far from Boteti river. However, we have frequently been receiving numbers of vulture’s death across the country, where the latest largest vulture death records of at least 537 was in June 2019 around Chobe linked to elephant poaching,” states Kootsositse.
Earlier in 2019 at least 60 vultures were reported dead from a suspected poisoning incident around Tuli block (North Eastern side) and a further 80 were poisoned in an area bordering Moremi Game Reserve in north-west Botswana. This situation is getting worse by the day considering that vultures are recorded to be on the decline largely due to poisoning from misuse of Agrochemicals. Studies indicate that threats from poisoning and trade in traditional medicines account for 90 per of reported vulture deaths in Africa. According to the IUCN red Data List seven of the African Vultures are critically endangered and hence on the verge of extinction if we don’t act now. This is disturbing.
He further suggested that Agrochemicals used illegally to poison vultures, especially carbofuran-based substances, should be banned, and the use of safer alternatives encouraged. There is need for stakeholders he opined to assist government efforts as much as possible.
“The best method to wildlife poisoning is prevention. Working with among others, the Ministry of Wildlife Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, and with support from various agencies including Conservation Trust Fund, European Union(EU) and United Nations Development (UNDP), as well as National Environmental Fund (NEF), BirdLife Botswana does significant work towards public education throughout the country on the need to conserve vultures and especially wise use of agrochemicals,” he emphasized.
However, it seems more needs to be done and stakeholders are calling for all interested partners to engage the public with them to negate this predicament.
His statement was followed by another from Ministry headquarters which urged members of the community to continue reporting all incidences to BirdLife Botswana or Department of Wildlife and National Parks offices close to them.