Last week when presiding over an event to welcome four rhinos at the Orapa Game Park, President Ian Khama made some very insightful statements which we hope Batswana will take out some time to read and internalise.
Like many Batswana, President Khama is a conservationist. But on that day he was on his element. His speech was sincere, candid and honest.
He reminded the nation what gains we get from wildlife and through it tourism.
More importantly he talked about the ever present perils, especially if we fail to appreciate just how blessed we are as a nation that we still have in abundance many wildlife species that have since become extinct in many countries.
The reason why the elephant population of Botswana has grown to levels where it has today become almost unsustainable as it daily encroaches human space is thanks largely to the efforts by Batswana in general, not just their government.
Even as they hunt many game animals for food, it has always been a well respected culture among Batswana to know just when it is a good season to kill which species.
That culture includes not hunting certain animal species during mating and/breeding periods.
That culture also explicitly forbids killing pregnant species for that endangers procreation and, by extension, a guarantee for access to the meat of such species.
Today’s poaching provides a totally different challenge to us as a country.
First, it is done by people who have behind them well organised rackets of international crimes. Second, it is done not for sustenance but for commercial reasons.
The instruments used allow for wholesale slaughter of animals all at a go.
This therefore makes extinction of the species a real danger.
In a rare disclosure of what would normally pass for classified intelligence briefs, President Khama said Botswana Government was in possession of accounts of covert operations dispatched to Botswana with the explicit brief to do reconnaissance on rhinos.
“Recently, we have learnt with alarm of the senseless and tragic destruction of rhinos by poachers in South Africa, where last year alone more than 400 rhinos were killed by poachers, and poaching still continues to date. We are also aware that these poachers are now eyeing Botswana rhinos as their next target. It has come to our attention that some have dispatched a covert expedition into Botswana to locate rhinos for poaching operations. We have responded by adopting measures which include the declaration of such individuals prohibited immigrants. We are and will continue to use our security forces to protect our rhinos and general wildlife. They should be warned that coming into Botswana to poach would be a very very high risk undertaking. This is a warning that in this country, wildlife protection is a national priority.”
Information that Botswana has been identified as a possible destination for the international poachers ravaging South Africa is very chilling indeed.
We draw solace from the President’s statement that poaching in Botswana will become an expensive adventure for these new types of terrorists.
What is happening in South Africa should not be allowed here.
We call on President Khama to use all resource at Botswana’s disposal to fight any kind of poaching within the borders of Botswana.
We call on President Ian Khama to make any form of poaching in Botswana an expensive enterprise indeed.
Having said that we want to also assure Botswana Government and President Ian Khama in particular of our unqualified support as his government fights this war.
We, however, want to call on President Ian Khama to extend his passionate defence of rhinos to all other wildlife species, especially lions where our own small intelligence information tells us that there could be some powerful people with links in Government who are involved in unlawful cross border trading in cubs and lion hunting for trophy purposes, sustained mainly by millionaire hunters from America and Europe.