Tshekedi Khama, Botswana Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, says his country is under unprecedented pressure from the pro-hunting lobby in the European Union and regional neighbours to lift the hunting ban imposed in 2014.
Addressing a press conference in Maun this week, Khama said: “Botswana remains resolute in supporting the ending of the ivory trade. We have stopped hunting (since 2014), but our neighbours still undertake trophy hunting and practice captive animal breeding.
“Our policy against wildlife hunting is working, that is why wildlife is relocating from neighbouring countries to Botswana. But now, the pro-hunters want to follow the wildlife here. As Botswana, we supported the ending of the ivory trade because we believe that getting rid of the trade will wipe out the markets too.”
Khama said Botswana’s opposition to hunting and captive breeding, demonstrated by its support for the upgrading of elephants and lions from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1 of the Convention on Trade In Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) protection status at the recent CoP17 Summit in Johannesburg, was premised on the country’s stance against illegal wildlife trade and poaching. Botswana requested that its elephants be upgraded to Appendix 1 when the Resolution for the upgrading of all Southern African Elephants to Appendix 1 failed.
Khama said Botswana supported photographic tourism as it had realised that the policy was more beneficial to conservation than trophy hunting. During the CITES Summit, Botswana broke ranks with Southern African Development Community (SADC) members Zimbabwe and South Africa, which supported limited ivory trade and called for a total shutdown of the ivory trade.
The EU opposed Botswana and sided with pro-hunting SADC member states because, as a bloc, it supported the hunting and trade in African wildlife regardless of whether the species were endangered or not, Khama said.
Further, Khama accused neighbours Zambia and Zimbabwe of failing to fulfil their obligations in the development of the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Park (KAZA), which is a regional initiative meant to promote the free cross-border movement and conservation of wildlife.
He attributed the influx of elephants from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Angola to a failure by those countries to provide basic water and security infrastructure for the animals.
“We have some partners, like Zambia and Zimbabwe, who fail to pay their subscriptions and putting up requisite infrastructure for essential services, such as water, in the KAZA. That results in many elephants crossing into Botswana because we have those provisions. Our neighbours need to drill boreholes and provide water to stop their animals from coming to Botswana,” Khama said.