For some international organisations, sleeping dogs will never lie as they continue to push against the Botswana government following last year’s decision to lift the hunting ban and allow trophy hunting. This week, a United Kingdom based wildlife charity, The Born Free Foundation which seeks to have a positive impact on animals in the wild and protect their ecosystem in perpetuity joined the bandwagon.
“We note with concern the news that the registration process is under way for an auction for a number of elephant hunting packages. Born Free is ethically opposed to the hunting or killing of any animal for sport or pleasure,” wrote Mark Jones who is Head of Policy for the foundation. The letter which is addressed to the Director of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Dr Cyril Taolo continued to read; “We challenge the claims made by proponents of trophy hunting that it delivers significant conservation and community benefits, or that it positively contributes to the sustainable use of wildlife.”
Ever since President Mokgweetsi Masisi took a bold decision of lifting the hunting ban as a formula to curb the growing elephant population which is also affecting local farmers, conservationists have reacted in outrage. Most of the antagonists of the ban lifting say this is an “archaic” and “disappointing” practice.
Botswana has the largest elephant population on the continent with more than 135,000 roaming freely in unfenced parks and wide open spaces. Some experts say the number of elephants in this country, renowned as a luxury safari destination, has almost tripled over the last 30 years, and that the population could now be more than 160,000. Botswana has a booming elephant population, which is increasingly coming into contact with people. Records as of last year revealed that about 200 people died from elephant attacks in the past five years.
Farmers have also struggled to keep elephants out of their fields, where they eat and destroy crops. However, despite this, Born Free Foundation is not shaken to vent out their frustration in trophy hunting and is also disappointed by the criteria set for one to acquire the hunting packages as it limits bidders to those with “appropriate elephant hunting experience who can provide proof of membership of hunting associations.”
Those bidding for the packages are also required to provide a list of at least five years’ of elephant hunting experience who will be employed by the hunting operator. The Foundation’s letter further critiqued the government’s seemingly favouring method of selecting bidders: “The criteria appears to limit bidders to those who will undertake elephant hunting, and to exclude individuals or organisations who may wish to bid for the concessions in order to develop non-consumptive conservation programmes that will provide benefits for both wildlife and local people.”
The argument is in consonance with what Masisi has promised to deliver — an inclusion of the indigenous community in the tourism sector. This was echoed by Member of Parliament for Kanye North Thapelo Letsholo, who this week, responded to the Budget Speech. “Government to reserve licenses for citizen operators in the tourism sectors, including reserved concessions for citizens only. We should pronounce that in the case that existing concession licenses wish to sell any shares in their businesses, Batswana must be given first right of refusal,” Letsholo said.
WeekendPost understands that there is an ongoing conflict over Mababe concession which has the largest elephant species. The local tourism operators are at risk of losing the bid over the preferred foreign national, Johan Calitz. Already six licenses to hunt a total of 60 elephants is on the market. Seven hunting packages, of 10 elephants each, were available for auction. Only one (package) was not sold as no bidder met the reserve price of 2 million pula ($181,000)," said Adrian Rass, Managing Director of Auction It, who was quoted by the international media. The six (packages) were sold for a total price of 25.7 million Pula ($2.3m)."
Ever since last year’s elections, 72 licenses were issued for game hunting, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng revealed in Parliament this week. She further added that 68 animals have already been hunted. The international foundation which is caring for wild animals implores government to suspend the bidding process.
“We implore you to suspend the bidding process to enable opportunities for a wider range of stakeholders to engage and at the very least to consider revision of the criteria to allow for alternative sources of funding to be fully considered,” she said. Currently, various interested parties are filing their bids to grab the concessions, but Born Free maintains that there are other sustainable and far more effective methods than trophy hunting and benefitting local communities.
“These include land use reform, conservation-compatible agriculture; co-existence approaches such as through the careful development of non-destructive, low impact wildlife tourism aimed at both international and domestic markets and innovative funding packages,” suggested Jones. The worry from the animal lobby foundation is also anchored on the fact that the African bull elephant, the ‘‘Big tusker’’, has declined precipitously as a result of targeting by trophy hunters and poachers.
This, the organisation say, leads to loss of accumulated social knowledge and experience as well as genes that may be hugely important to herd health.“Older bull elephants help to control younger males in the bachelor groups, who may become aggressive when the older bulls are removed, with the resulting potential for increased conflict with people.”
Conservationist are also of the view that trophy hunting is not sustainable and not financially prudent. According to the 2013 report, ‘Dead or Alive? Valuing an Elephant’, a live elephant may be worth as much as $1.6 million over its lifetime through income from photographic tourism. This is said to be forty times the average fee of around $40,000 paid by the trophy hunters to shoot a bull elephant.
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?
Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.
Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama).
Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.