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Hunting ban: a moral right, economic pain

Publishing Date : 04 June, 2019

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The decision by government to lift the hunting ban has, as anticipated, rubbed the international community the wrong way. Many of those who are hurt are conservation enthusiasts — some of whom are regular tourists who visit this country while some are not. The decision to lift the hunting ban was informed by wide consultations with communities in affected areas.

The fact of the matter is that, it does not matter whether those who are against Botswana’s recent policy decision are direct contributors to our tourism or not, the reality is that all of them have the potential to sabotage Botswana’s economic aspirations. This is evident from their interventions on various platforms especially the social media.

Their continued displeasure has resulted in negative campaigns as seen in various embassies around world, including the Botswana embassy in the United States. As a sovereign country we need to stand for what we believe in albeit in a coordinated manner as demonstrated by the President when he shared via his social media accounts the Botswana elephant story and the country’s position when it comes to issues of conservation.   

One of the weapons which international communities often use against other nations when those nations go against the tide is withdrawal of economic support. This usually comes in the form of economic sanctions, but they also push their agenda through Non-Governmental Organisations which may influence citizens of their countries or even the world — not to support certain sectors such as tourism in our case.

Government should be cognisant of these possibilities post its decision to lift the hunting ban. There is an informed rational behind the decision to lift the hunting ban, but we should as a nation not fool ourselves into believing that the rest of the world fully comprehends our position. There are many out there who are distorted our message and misinterpreting our decision to lift the hunting ban.

Therefore it is our responsibility as citizens with the support of the government, to convince the global citizens that the decision was taken in the best interest of the country and its citizenry, and that our conservation efforts are still intact. We should make the world realise that we have close to 180 000 elephants and what they are doing to the livelihoods of our people.

We appreciate that President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has already shared the position of government on various platforms, but it is obviously not enough. We are alive to the reality that tourism is Botswana’s second revenue earner after diamonds. Tourism remains a prized asset to our economy hence the manner in which we respond to this international backlash should not be found wanting. We not by any stretch of imagination suggesting that we should be apologetic of our decision to lift the hunting ban, we must own, but in a manner that shows maturity and well-coordinated thoughts that will educate our detractors.

The lifting of the hunting ban was of course a response to the pleas of the communities who live side by side with wildlife. In most areas some of the animals have proved to be troublesome. While wildlife brings revenue to the country needed to finance the country national budget year-in year-out, it is also a doubled edged sword because animals such as elephants and lions in particular cause pain, destroying the very source of livelihoods for our people in rural communities.

The wildlife/human conflict has seen the rise in number of people who are killed by elephants. It is common cause that the number of elephants we have in Botswana are becoming too much to handle. There is a desire to keep the beautiful creatures safe in wildlife designated areas such as game reserves and national parks, but their spiralling numbers have forced them to wander beyond the designated areas.

The increase in their numbers also mean that the eco-system itself is challenged, and even vegetation experiences serious erosion. Elephants are naturally destructive, what more of an over population of these monstrous animals. For years, people who live in areas where they are in contact with elephants and other destructive wild animals on a daily basis had come to the conclusion that government cares only about tourism revenue and not their lives. Government had for a long time failed to respond to the concerns of the people.

Lifting the hunting ban as a measure to protect communities, Government should also consider relooking at the compensation they offer to those whose property is destroyed by wild animals. Animals destroy both ploughing fields and kill domestic animals, but victims always complain that the compensation is often not even close to the value of what they have lost. This as a result has impoverished many of our people. It is a matter that has been debated for a long time, Government needs to act on it, and ensure that people get the requisite compensation.  



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