The Department of Wildlife is struggling to maintain its only two aircraft which have been grounded for more than a year.
There are no plans to purchase new ones.
It is alleged that the department has, for a very long time, not budgeted for the aircraft which are said to be in bad shape and are a flight risk.
The department has about four pilots, three locals and Ugandan national, and is reported to owe a huge amount of money for fuel and that the supplier has stopped further supplies of fuel due to the outstanding balance.
This has interfered with the counting of wildlife, which is supposed to be carried out twice a year.
A security enforcement agency now occupies the P8 million Department of Wildlife hangar at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, the Deputy Director of Wildlife, Charles Mojalemotho, said, “Our two aircraft have been grounded for quite some time,” adding that the department owns two aircraft, a fixed air wing and a helicopter.
“Apparently, as we speak, the helicopter has been grounded for more than a year while the fixed wing aircraft has also been grounded for about six months or so,” said Mojalemotho.
He cited maintenance of the aircraft and insurance as the main reasons why the two aircraft have been grounded.
The gear box of the helicopter was reportedly sent to the United States of America for maintenance where it took more than a year to be repaired.
Mojalemotho added that the gear box has since been returned and is expected to be fitted in due course.
On the fixed wing aircraft, he said that the problem is mainly that of maintenance.
“I do agree that they took a very long time but the public should be aware that some of the delays are beyond our control,” he said, maintaining that all the aircraft are expected to be fully operational before the end of the year.
Mojalemotho said in the meantime, both the Botswana Police and the Botswana Defense Force are currently assisting them in their daily operations.
He strongly denied the allegation that his department is unable to re-fuel its aircraft.
“Money is there to fuel our aircraft as well as to maintain them,” he stated.
The wildlife department started its air wing sometime around 1976 with one aircraft donated by the French.