BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has fended off negative publicity surrounding Botswana’s conservation policy arguing that contrary to popular belief there has never been a protracted ban on hunting.
Speaking at a media engagement breakfast he hosted at his official residence on Friday Masisi said instead, what the government has been doing was to renew the suspension on hunting year after year.
The President also took the opportunity to warn the West against their efforts to dictate to Botswana how to manage its wildlife. Masisi expressed his frustrations at the Western media’s reaction to the proposed lifting of the ‘hunting ban’.
He said there was no logic in the total abolition of any means of reduction and management.
“It startles and bamboozles me when people sit in the comfort of where they come from and lecture to us about the management of a species they do not have,” the President said, adding “They want to admire from a distance and in the admiration of those species they forget that we too the people of Botswana are a species. They talk as if we are the trees and grass that the elephants feed on.”
Their reaction to the upliftment, Masisi said, speaks volumes about what they think of Batswana and how they view them. He accused the West of viewing the whole Botswana as a zoo that they are keeping.
He said this was despite the fact that some of the Westerners are the biggest beneficiaries of Botswana’s generosity when the country gives them parts of land to own as concessions.
“It’s a sacrifice. That concession could be owned by a Motswana. I have expressed my bitter opposition to tourism policy or activities that yield exotic ostentatiousness on the one hand and right next to it you see a malnourished barefooted black African child,” Masisi said. “That is reprehensible and as long as I am President we will never agree to that.”
The elephant population in Botswana is reported to have been on the increase since 1992.Latest reports had put the current population of elephants at over 200, 000 , against Botswana’s carrying capacity of just 50 000. The extremely high increase has been largely attributed to the suspension on hunting of elephants.
President Masisi said as a result of the increase in population most elephants in Botswana roam outside the designated parks and game reserves leading to frequent interactions with humans.
“The reason why elephants are creating a story is because they have broadened their grazing space and their interactions with human beings have been devastating. They destroy fields and crops,” Masisi said.
He said as a result government was directly and indirectly subsidizing the harm and damage caused by population expansion of elephants. As a response, Masisi told the media practitioners, his government consulted the people of Botswana so they could own the solutions to the elephant problem.
“The people have expressed a value for elephants because Batswana value their flora and fauna. It’s in our DNA.” He said as much as they see the value in wildlife Batswana also decide when the wildlife population is too much.