Elephant and rhino poachers in Botswana and across the region are paid as little at US$ 5 (P55) per day despite all the risks involved in their illegal trade, Sunday Standard has learnt.
According to a conservation expert the poachers can walk distances from as far as Angola, crossing rivers using inflatable devices to reach Botswana where the poaching of elephants and rhinos starts.
“It would seem the poachers establish camps and live there for months. Porters are employed to export their trophies and bring back supplies for the resident poachers.”
He says Okavango Delta poaching camps are rarely discovered by authorities although the locations and smuggling routes are known locally. “It seems the poachers easily evade the Botswana anti-poaching patrols apparent from the bits and pieces of poaching news Botswana allows to be released.”
The poachers and their porters, Sunday Standard has learnt, take all this risk for peanuts receiving about $5 per day.
“It seems the salary is enough motivation to undertake these dangerous and life-threatening missions. $5 hardly buys a cup of coffee for those attending all the many meetings aimed at finding ways to ‘defeat’ poaching.”
Former Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga has been quoted in the past alluding to the little that poachers are paid despite the damage they are causing to wildlife conservation. “The demand for rhino horns and elephant tusks does not come from within Namibia or Africa, it comes from further afield. Locals get paid peanuts for killing our rhinos and elephants,” Herunga has said.
Rhino poaching has risen significantly in Botswana in recent months with at least five rhinos already having been reportedly poached this November, 2020.
The recent killing of four suspected Namibian poachers by the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) has again brought regional attention to the issue of wildlife poaching. Botswana’s seemingly uncompromising ‘shoot-to-kill’ attitude towards poaching has especially been under the spotlight with Namibian President Hage Geingob describing Botswana’s efforts as a threat to regional stability.
Botswana has been under prolonged attack from highly organized international criminal syndicates employing African poachers with bush experience. Rhino Conservation Botswana says it is mainly poverty that drives poaching in Africa as the price paid for rhino horn is a major incentive for poachers to undertake risky incursions into the deep wilderness of the Okavango Delta. “Rhino poaching is driven by demand from an increasingly wealthy middle-class in Asia where rhino horn is illegally traded on the black market, largely as a symbol of wealth and status,” the organization has said.
“It is likely that the criminal syndicates who have set their sights on Botswana are linked to those who have targeted South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe over the past 12 years. South Africa has been the main poaching target since 2006, losing on average three rhinos a day at its poaching peak in 2014/2015.”