Botswana is providing support for human- wildlife conflict mitigation through the Community Guardianship and Livestock Protection Programme under the Wildlife and Communities Action Trust (WildCAT), an affiliate of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).
This latest initiative, which commenced in August 2020, is also aiding in lion conservation in Botswana’s Ngamiland and the Central Districts and supported by Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, Wilderness Wildlife Trust.
The objective is to improve conservation outcomes for African lions through alleviating human- lion conflict and increasing predator tolerance, whilst at the same time improving rural livelihoods through guardianship and education.
Human- lion conflict is a major contributor to lion mortality, and tolerance for livestock losses is low amongst many rural communities in Botswana.
The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is one of the last remaining strongholds for African lions, and connectivity within the Makgadikgadi- Hwange-Chobe landscape is vital for the long- term genetic diversity and survival of lions and other predators.
Yet, farmers living alongside lion populations suffer regular livestock depredation and feel disassociated from the benefits that wildlife brings.
The programme trains and employs local Community Guardians from the villages to assess and deliver locally- appropriate solutions for conflict. The focus of this funding application was to help support the Boteti Project, operating since 2017 in the village of Khumaga and its surrounding cattle posts.
This area borders the Makgadikgadi Pan National Park (MPNP), and is situated on an important wildlife connectivity corridor to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, as well as north to the Okavango Delta and Hwange regions.
A dual focus in this area was to provide educational workshops to help communities understand wild predator behaviour, with a particular focus on how to stay safe should they encounter a predator, and practical mitigation of livestock depredation through the construction of predator- resistant kraals.
Even in the midst of the COVID crisis in 2020, 10 new predator- resistant kraals were constructed in conflict hotspots at cattle posts adjacent to the boundary with the MPNP in the Boteti area, taking the total number of these protected livestock enclosures to 18.
These enclosures use a simple combination of strong posts bolted together with cross- poles and 1.8 metre high diamond mesh to prevent predators gaining access. More than 1 300 head of livestock are now safeguarded, with these predator- proof kraals having proved 100% effective at preventing livestock losses to lions.
Three full-time Community Guardians have also been employed through the programme, after undergoing an insightful five-day training workshop in Savuti in late 2020.
Lower than usual conflict was experienced during 2020, perhaps as a result of the increased human presence in rural areas as a result of unemployment due to COVD-19, and due to the positive impact of the project activities.
“Human-Wildlife Conflict is one of the major drivers of lion mortality across large areas of remaining lion range, and, with the continental population of this iconic species having nearly halved in the last 25 years, it’s imperative that we reduce conflict-related killings wherever possible. That’s why the Protect Programme of our Impact Strategy supports important projects like this one, and others that aim to move the needle from conflict to co- existence,” concludes Dr Neil Midlane, Wilderness Safaris Group Impact Manager.
Due to the range of eco-systems in Botswana the size of lion prides shows a great variation from area to area.
Prides in the Central Kalahari will generally be smaller than the prides in the Okavango and other northern wilderness areas.
This is because the availability of food is less in the drier areas. The larger prides in these arid areas will often split into smaller sub- prides during the dry season.
Home ranges of the lions vary in size for the same reasons – availability of food. In the arid areas the home ranges will be much larger and a great deal of overlapping with neighbouring prides occur.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.