Communities in Botswana want the government to exempt elephants and buffaloes from a hunting ban imposed in 2014 and will seek a meeting with the ministry to make the request.Written by: Boniface Keakabetse for Tourism Update
President Ian Khama’s government imposed a blanket countrywide hunting ban two years ago in response to wildlife declines.
In 2011, Dr Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders conducted an aerial survey that found that 11 of 14 species counted in the Okavango Delta declined by an average of 61% between 1996 and 2010. Species in decline included wildebeest, sitatunga, lechwe and springbok.
However, communities say the ban has collapsed community tourism ventures dependent on trophy hunting income. Galesengwe Haku, Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust Chairman, told Tourism Update that the community’s income had taken a serious hit from the ban: “There is almost nothing coming into our coffers.”
According to government documents, in 2010 the trust generated US$600,000 from the sale of 120 animals, including elephants and buffaloes, which it sold to trophy hunters.
Dr Olekanye Thakadu, a research fellow at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, who is also the Chairman of the Ngamiland Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) forum, revealed that communities had resolved to request a meeting with the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, to request that elephants and buffaloes be exempted from the hunting ban. Dr Thakadu said the communities argued that the two species had not been affected by the declines. According to him, the Botswana elephant population was healthy and constituted a third of the African population.
Dr Thakadu said communities were directed to switch their hunting concessions to photographic tourism. However, he said this was problematic as some of the former peripheral hunting zones had low wildlife densities and were not suitable for photographic tourism. Dr Thakadu said the only viable option in these areas was hunting, so communities want to be allowed to hunt the elephants and buffaloes.
The communities are hoping for a reinstatement of the old arrangement under the CBNRM programme, whereby community trusts were allocated quotas to hunt in controlled areas that were leased to them by land boards. The communities generated big profits by selling their quota animals to international trophy hunters.
According to Dr Thakadu, the communities have written the minister a letter to meet them on the issue but have not yet received a response.
At the time of publication, Minister Khama’s office had not responded to requests for comment.
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