Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tourism Minister clarifies trophy hunting

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has responded to an article authored by Dr Adam Cruise titled “Trophy hunting in Botswana; a tale of declining wildlife, corruption, exploitation and impoverishment” 

In response to the article, the Ministry reminded the public that the hunting ban was lifted in May 2019 following the recommendation of a Presidential Sub-Committee of Cabinet that was tasked to initiate a social dialogue aimed at reviewing the ban on hunting. 

The Ministry says in press statement that the process entailed rigorous nationwide consultations through various platforms including Kgotla meetings, Local Authorities as well as other Community Based Organisations. 

“Therefore, the decision to include sustainable hunting as an option to the utilization of natural resources for the benefit of the local communities was made on the basis of improving rural community livelihoods. These are the people who bear the brunt of living next to wildlife especially elephants,” the Ministry says. 

The ministry says, hunting is regulated through legislative instruments such as the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act of 1992, Hunting, and Licensing Regulations of 2001. “The development of non-detrimental findings and enhancement findings for both elephant and leopard was done and accepted by CITES which shows that hunting of elephant and leopard is well regulated. Botswana as a member of CITES has a CITES approved quota, which is negligible when one considers the elephant population in Botswana,” the ministry says. 

Furthermore, the ministry says, in 2021, the Government of Botswana developed the Botswana Elephant Management Plan and Action Plan 2021-2026. The management plan detailed actions that the Government will undertake to protect the national elephant population and the potential areas of how communities can benefit from the utilization of elephants. 

The ministry said elephants are an example of a species whose numbers have increased in Botswana as a consequence of judicious management by Government and its partners, including Community Based Organisations. Indeed, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List released in March 2021, which assessed extinction risk of elephants, noted that while savannah elephants have declined across Africa, Botswana (and the Kavango Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area) are reporting stable or increasing populations, which attests to the successes of the approaches in use by the Government of Botswana, which includes trophy hunting. 

In addition, the ministry says, the recently launched KAZA elephant survey report estimated that the contribution of Botswana to the KAZA population to be 131, 909. “This is 58% of the total estimated elephant population of the KAZA landscape consisting of elephant range of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe which have common international borders along the Okavango and Zambezi River basins,” says the ministry. 

It should be noted, the ministry says, that the provision of water for wildlife via boreholes or providing road access to natural waterholes has never been and it will never be a tool to bait wildlife, in Botswana. Water provision is done for the good wildlife conservation during dry season. It is done for wildlife in areas that do not have permanent water sources. This is meant to reduce the conflict between humans and wildlife especially elephants. 

According to the ministry, hunting has been ongoing for only two seasons in Botswana after the lifting of the hunting moratorium. Therefore, there is no way that one can conclude about the lack of impact on rural livelihoods from hunting. The Botswana Government says through the Ministry of Entrepreneurship is working with local communities to develop hunting value chains to increase job and business opportunities through processing of hunting by-products such as skins to develop value added products. The development of these businesses through processing of hunting by-products will add to increased job creation opportunities, which are much needed in rural areas. 

Hunting in Botswana has made significant impact into the lives of the rural communities as compared to photographic safari. This is epitomized by the projects that were kick-started by funds from hunting, such as lodges, shops, installation of solar power to electrify the trust office and WIFI installation in Tobera village, water provision for people and livestock in Kyeica. 

The ministry says in Mababe Village for example, in 2022 hunting season each household received P1500.00 P3000.00 from hunting profits twice a year. “The community also has a college fund that has sponsored 25 students to various colleges, and 8 Mababe residents to acquire Class B driver’s licence and heavy duty. Pensioners and orphans in the community receive P500.00 monthly. Assistance is also provided for private medical care when needed by members of the community,” the ministry says. 

The ministry says the funds that are accrued from elephant special quota are deposited in Conservation Trust Fund. These funds are utilized by communities and some of the beneficiaries that benefitted from Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) through erection of electrified fence around their crop fields are Matopi Community Trust, A & B Moroka Cluster, Matsiloje Village Development Committee in the North East, Fubamachena & Motswedi Cluster at Pandamatenga, while at Boteti West there is the Karakatee Naxau Trust. At North West there are currently some Community Trusts which are supported with fences and solar powered boreholes for horticultural projects like Nxaraga Community Trust. 

“With regard to allegation of corrupt practices in CBNRM programmes, the Ministry has measures in place to guard against corruption by Community Trust. This include amongst others; conducting audits, training of Trust Boards on corruption prevention and continuous monitoring of Community Trust to ensure compliance in line with the provisions of the CBNRM Policy,” the ministry says.  In addition, it says, communities are proactive in guarding against poor governance issues. Government is also currently working on a legislation that would ensure total accountability of trusts on all their assets.

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