Uproar over Bots hunting ban

Gaborone – Botswana has come under fire from stakeholders in the tourism sector following its decision to ban wildlife hunting as of 2014.

Communities that depend on the proceeds from hunting are likely to take the government head-on.

Last week the Botswana Wildlife Management Association expressed concern over plans by the government to introduce a ban on hunting from January, saying the decision was a departure from previous agreements.

The government says no quotas, licences and permits will be issued for hunting of part 1 and 2 schedule game animals as listed in the wildlife conservation and National Parks Act.

But licences will continue to be issued for game birds listed in part 3 of the same Act subject to conditions to be determined by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Hunting in registered ranches will not be affected by the ban.

Part 1 refers to partially protected animals such as leopard, lions, elephant, blesbuck, sable and eland.

Part 2 refers to protected game animals such as zebra, elephants, duiker, steinbuck, kudu, impala, lechwe, springbok, buffalo, blue hartebeest, tsesebe and ostrich.

Licences will continue to be issued for game birds listed in part 3 of the same law, subject to conditions to be determined by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Hunting in registered game ranches will not be affected by the ban since they are privately owned.

The government can also expect some resistance from communities that depend on the proceeds from hunting. Botswana’s hunting industry generates about US$40m annually and 450 people are employed at different levels in the safari industry.

The Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism has said it is aware that community-based organisations which hunt the designated wildlife for food are anxious about the potential effect of the ban.

The ministry says those communities were given prior notice and are being encouraged to make a living from the proceeds of Botswana’s popular photographic tourism industry.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Neil Fitt, defended the ban saying “The decision to effect the ban has been necessitated by available information which indicates that several species in the country are showing declines.”

The causes of declines are likely due to a combination of factors such as anthropogenic impact, including illegal off take and habitat fragmentation and loss.

Fitt said the suspension of hunting will allow the ministry to work with all the relevant stakeholders in understanding the causes of the decline and where possible to put in place remedial measures to reverse the trend.

“My ministry will continue to monitor wildlife trends using suitable methodologies and suitable and regularly update the public on the status of wildlife resources,” said Fitt.

However, the Botswana Wildlife Management Association strongly disputed the government’s suggestions that hunting was causing a decline in species, saying it was “disingenuous”.

“We recommend that government continue to support hunting of elephants in specific areas. The elephant population in Botswana is the single biggest population of elephants in Africa,” the spokesperson for the association, Debbie Peake, is quoted as saying.

“They are not threatened and are increasing at approximately 4 percent per annum. As they increase annually, they spread into other areas causing conflict with humans and livestock. Expansion of this elephant population is also threatening Botswana’s biodiversity,” says Peake.

“The hunting industry has been working with the government for nearly seven years now on the government’s intention to phase out sport hunting in selected areas.

At the outset, the industry was assured by the then Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism that hunting of elephants would continue in specific areas.

“Also the terminology of a ban implies that sport hunting has had a detrimental effect on wildlife, which is also false.

“There are numerous factors, such as drought, flooding, fire, illegal off-take, veterinary fences, among others, that have caused specific declines — not sport hunting, so calling this a ban casts the wrong impression about the role sport hunting has played in conservation in Botswana for the last 30 years.”

A recent aerial survey carried out by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has indicated that wildebeest, giraffes, kudu, lechwe, ostriches, roan and tsesebe antelope and warthog populations have dropped significantly over the past 10 years, specifically in the north and eastern areas.

The survey, which was conducted following concerns that some species in key wildlife areas of Botswana were declining, observed 26 herbivorous animals.

These included, buffalo, duiker, eland, elephant, giraffe, impala, kudu, springbok, steenbok, warthog, wilder beast, zebra, roan, sable, sitatunga, tsesebe. The survey also included cattle, donkey, horse, sheep, and goats.

The population estimates of animals were counted in the administrative districts and protected areas as well as distribution patterns and population trends for the past 20 years.

The report states that lechwe declined by 59 percent between 1992 and 2012 while springbok and tsesebe declined by 71 percent and 79 percent, respectively, for the same period.

The survey also showed that the total number of cattle in Botswana outclassed the total number of wildlife throughout the surveyed area and inside wildlife management areas.

During the 10-year period, the cattle population increased quite significantly over the years with an estimated number of 3 137 477.

The iconic specie, the elephant, continues to increase in number with an estimated increase to 207 545 between 1992 and 2012.

The buffalo, which is also an important species, experienced stable growth over the 10-year period with a total number of 61 105 species.

Another species which experienced a significant upward trend is the hippo with a total estimated number of 3 633 by 2012.

The report revealed that the number of sheep and goats combined has significantly increased with an estimated population of 1 652 748.

Placing particular attention on trends in the Okavango Delta, the report showed a significant increase in the number of elephants and zebras. However, decline in population for the lechwe, giraffe, tsesebe, warthog, wildebeest were recorded. The decline in population has been attributed to the destruction of the flood plains and veld fires.

September 2013
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