Members of Parliament have called on the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, to review the wildlife-human conflict to avoid the animals from being killed by the angry farmers.
The country’s third revenue earner, the tourism sector is seen as the force behind the economic diversification process with wildlife animal viewing and hunting the main source of Botswana’s income.
“As it now stands, the wildlife-human conflict will continue to grow,” said MP for Tonota North, Fidelis Molao, adding that “currently people’s hands are tied”.
“They destroy peoples produce, eat their domestic animals,” Molao pointed out, saying the situation is made even worse by the Wildlife Authorities who take ages to respond to reports.
Even if attended to, the compensation is inadequate with the legislator arguing the wildlife animals were in existence to render the populace into poverty.
Khama presented the Revised Wildlife Policy to Parliament on Wednesday, cautioning the population that a number of animal species were threatened.
Molao called for a quota for compensation instead of the current method in which Authorities randomly decide the price for damages, adding that the International Organisations should be enlightened about the real dangers the wildlife animals pose.
He added that the overly populated elephants were overwhelming as was their destruction.
To avoid the sector being dubbed a preserve for the privileged few, Molao also called on the government to take ordinary Batswana on board – teaching them the importance of the Tourism sector.
“Batswana should be afforded public education about the sector so that they evolve from cattle rearing to engage themselves in the sector,” he said, decrying the dominance of foreigners into the sector, particularly the Whites.
Even at schools, Molao said the pupils should be taught about the sector.
He noted the reason Batswana do not know where to start and end over the sector is due to ignorance.
MP for South East South Odirile Motlhale also echoed the same sentiments, insisting there was a serious problem in his constituency caused by kudus that destroy his constituents’ crops and produce.
He also decried the slow rate at which the Authorities respond to reports which often happen at night when the farmers are asleep.
“Government should therefore erect a game proof fence or even cull them or chase them to National Parks or Game Reserves,” Motlhale said.
Amongst the few countries in the world that have significant wildlife populations, Botswana has a reputation as a stronghold for a number of species which are regarded as globally threatened, including cheetah, wild dog, slaty egret and wattled crane.
“The white rhino, which was on the verge of extinction in Botswana thirty years ago, has been re-introduced into the wild and its population is thriving,” Khama told Parliament. “Botswana’s elephant is recognized to be the largest national herd in the world.”
Motlhale also dismissed government decision to ban wildlife hunting, insisting trophy hunting was crucial for the economy of the country.
“I fail to make sense out of this,” Motlhale said, adding the monies the tourism operators used to accrue would definitely decrease and eventually affect the tax the government obtains from the businesses.
“But these are the recession times,” he complained, calling for the government to come with other selective means, particularly for certain animals, including elephants and kudus whose numbers are not threatened.
For his part, Khama acknowledged the management challenges that have risen over the last three decades as the country experienced steady growth in human population resulting in increased demand for land for attendant developments such as livestock and arable farming.
“The growth of human population has affected the mobility of wildlife through blockage of seasonal migratory routes and habitat fragmentation. Consequently wildlife has come into direct conflict with human beings and their property, hence the rising incidences of human-wildlife conflict,” Khama further said.
Apart from reviewing the Wildlife Policy of 1986, the draft Wildlife Policy of 2012 took the approach of a development instrument that lay emphasis on stakeholder involvement through the devolution of wildlife management to landowners and communities.
“The draft Policy embraces the principle of sustainability, including rural development and poverty eradication,” Khama further told Parliament.
The Policy also establishes an institutional, regulatory and participatory framework for wildlife conservation and management, he added.
The Policy was passed by Parliament.