Botswana hunting ban ‘not on private game ranches’

Pres Ian Khama's ban on hunting applies to state land only. It does not apply to private game ranches, except for protected species, such as leopard, says Ant Johnson of the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BWPA). He regards the over population of elephants in Botswana as a tremendous threat to conservation efforts.

”Very few of the areas of state land previously leased as hunting concessions are suitable for photographic tourism, so there will be no financial benefit at all to the tourist industry.

”The cancelling of the hunting leases will:
• leave these areas without a source of employment for the resident population, and
• without a lessee who has a vested interest in conserving the game.

”These two factors will lead to the destruction of the wild life resource which will be hunted indiscriminately and the meat sold to generate cash income. This has already started, and despite Pres Khama's intention to step up and bolster anti-poaching activities it will not be possible to control it effectively.”

Several scientific studies have shown that the numbers of game animals in Botswana's national parks and game reserves have declined at an alarming rate over the last 10 years. Although the reasons are not clear, there is a body of opinion that attributes this to elephant habitat destruction. Botswana now has in the region of 190 000 elephant.

”Even the most casual look at the vegetation in the Chobe National Park seems to bear this out. The point is that the biggest decline in the numbers of game animals in Botswana is in the areas protected and administered by the government! And yet they effectively blame the hunting industry for the decline. The hunters did not hunt in the national parks.

The BWPA introduced an ecologically sound system for managing leopard-hunting quotas. Although this system was implemented and trialled in Mozambique, it was the first time it had been done on a national basis and applied to hunting on game ranches only. The government's directive has put an end to this initiative.

The facts are interesting, as it is reliably estimated that stock owners indiscriminately kill over 200 leopard a year in Botswana – the quota for game ranches in 2012 was 15, of which eight were shot. Stock owners in Botswana have the right to kill any predator threatening their stock.

”Sustainable and ecologically sound hunting is banned in the face of the eventual total destruction of leopards by people who have no interest in their survival as a part of the diversity of Botswana and the planet.

”Given the above facts, the future of the wildlife of Botswana now lies in private game ranches. These now occupy one million hectares and the game animals (antelope) on them are more numerous than in the Chobe or Moremi national parks. There are more impala, eland waterbuck and kudu on these ranches than on all national parks and game reserves.

“The figures speak for themselves – the policy is flawed and unscientific, and Botswana will live to regret the day that these policies were implemented," Johnson concluded.

About 25 years ago it was estimated that the Botswana national parks and game reserves and other state lands could sustain about 60 000 elephants. Today Botswana has a surplus of 130 000, which the international preservationist community would not allow it to cull. Botswana will be threatened with sanctions if it does so. (POT-SHOT)

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