International Environmental NGOs mount Pressure on Masisi (Botswana)

Only Elephants know best how to care for Elephants says ECOTERRA.

By BONIFACE KEAKABETSE – WP

The letter dated 13 March and signed by 28 different worlds environmental NGOs has apparently been submitted to the Office of the President.  The letter was signed by Iris Ho, Senior Specialist, Wildlife Programs and Policy, Humane Society International. The letter states that: “The undersigned organizations representing millions of members and supporters around the world sincerely and humbly request that you do not reinstate trophy hunting and that you also do not allow regular elephant culling.”
The letter continues: “In recent years Botswana has been hailed as a shining example of wildlife conservation, and a safe haven for elephants, who are free from harassment by trophy hunters and where poaching is relatively low.” It further says: “Nonetheless, we are saddened by reports from the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephant  Programme under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that have pointed to an uptick in poaching in Southern Africa.

“In particular, Chobe National Park has experienced an increase in elephant poaching, according to the most recent Mike Chase report.  We also acknowledge your concern about the prevalence of human-elephant conflict in Botswana “letter says. However, the letter states that trophy hunting and elephant culling do not deter poaching, nor do they resolve the human-elephant conflict. A successful elephant management plan should be science-based and sustainable in order to promote the long-term peaceful co-existence between humans and animals.   

The letter also argues that In fact, trophy hunting is harmful to wildlife conservation. Trophy hunters tend to target prime age breeding males, the killing of whom disrupts the social structure and causes cascading negative impacts on populations, such as increased infanticide that results from the removal of dominant male lions and leopards.

Mokaila- ‘ we will not back off’’

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Kitso Mokaila has revealed that Botswana will not back off from its decision on hunting. Mokaila was speaking  during a ceremony organized by Cresta Hotels in Gaborone on Tuesday to welcome him back to the ministry. Mokaila said: ” We will not back off and change our minds in terms of what we are going to do. As HATAB you must remember where your bread is buttered and support us.”

Mokaila further explained that President Mokgweetsi Masisi will soon call an elephant summit in Kasane to be attended by members of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Park to discuss ways of controlling the marauding elephants. Mokaila explained that the summit is one of  Presidents Masisi strategies to find a solution to the problems posed by elephants in Botswana and the region.  KAZA, is a regional initiative meant to promote the free cross-border movement and conservation of wildlife in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Angola.

KAZA is viewed by conservationists as a solution to the elephant numbers in Botswana. Botswana has of late faced a storm of  international condemnation after it announced plans to return trophy hunting. Some international conservationists have lambasted President Masisi for using the elephant issue to win elections and stage managing support.

Ngamiland communities support  Government on Hunting

Community-Based Organization (CBO) as represented by Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (NCONGO) have meanwhile appreciated the handing over of the Hunting Ban Consultative President Masisi by the cabinet sub-committee led by Minister Hon. Frans Van Der Westhuizen. The letter issued by NCONGO Chief Executive Officer Siyoka Simasuku reveals that CBOs  support the recommendations by the Cabinet Sub-committee that conservation Hunting should be re-introduced in Botswana.

It says the re-introduction of hunting will go a long way in alleviating rural poverty by re-introducing tourism benefits lost in 2014 when the hunting moratorium was initiated. They say hunting will also mitigate against human-wildlife conflicts especially crop damage, livestock predation and the destruction of property, especially by elephants. Elephants are causing deaths to our people and have injured many. As a result, the hunting of elephants will result in these animals relocating from human settlements to far away protected areas where they are meant to live.    

The communication says the CBO calls for the strengthening of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme in Botswana. “It is our strongest belief that the CBNRM programme is one approach that can result in meaningful tourism benefits to communities.

The letter further  says: “as communities, we do not take kindly to those who are attacking our Government and all initiatives meant to re-introduce hunting and uplift our livelihoods and reduce human-wildlife conflicts in our local areas .it further posits that it is believed that Botswana is a sovereign state and we have a right to discuss and decide on issues which directly affect our livelihoods and well-being. This is said in reference to the elephant distribution and populations which are threatening food security and lives in our local areas.