Backlash on skin trade ban

Kabelo Dipholo
IN DEMAND: Lion skin

Trophy dealers push back against suspension of animal skin auction

Trophy Dealers Licence holders in Botswana are decrying the temporary suspension of auction of animal skins such as leopards, lions, foxes and antelopes.

In an exclusive interview with The Voice, spokesperson for the concerned licence holders, Bobonong village-based Salif Bilal-Bondo said, without notice, government abruptly stopped auctioning of wildlife skins in 2018.

“From what we gathered from the streets, government banned skins trade in order to control illegal trade, which does not make sense to us,” said Bondo.

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According to Bondo, efforts to have government revisit this decision have borne no fruit, but have instead led to the collapse of businesses that have been feeding many families.

“There are more than 300 dealers countrywide who have now closed shop,” said the man who had been trading in animal skins for over 20 years.

“BobonongIt has been my livelihood for that long. We’ve have disabled, the vulnerable and women trained and licensed by government to prepare these skins and sell to South Africa and the rest of the world, but today their businesses have collapsed, and they have been turned into beggars,” he said.

The outspoken Bondo said some of these women depend on the skins to make traditional gear such as skirts, sandals and handbags for sale.

Bondo, and some of the traders petitioned the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in May last year, calling on the department to lift the auction ban as licence holders depend on government trophy for their livelihood.

“We used to buy lion or leopard skins for export to South Africa and use CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permits to export those skins. We have records of those transactions with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks,” he said.

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“What is even more disheartening is that these skins are now destroyed? We now have to stand by, watching our livelihood burning down to ashes,” added Bondo.

Another license holder based in Gantsi, Dithapelo Moronko said he was still in the dark concerning what the Wildlife Department has planned as a way forward.

“Our businesses have collapsed, and there seems to be no solution in sight,” he said.

“All we do is pay for the renewal of the licence every year, which costs P300,” said a concerned Moronko.

The dealer said a skin bought on auction for P2 500-P10 000 could fetch up to P50 000 on the export market.

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A trader based in Kobojango, Falton Akanyang, also bemoaned the cessation of the auction and blamed it for the collapse of his business.

“Initially, they said only the skins will be off-limits, now they’ve included ostrich eggs, python skins, kudu and antelope horns on the list of trophies that are no longer up for auction. Everything is banned indefinitely,” Akanyang told The Voice.

For Doreen Maemo, the ban came just after she acquired her licence.

“I only took part in one auction in Molepolole and the ban was announced,” said Maemo.

Efforts to get a comment from the Acting Director of the Department of Wildlife, Moemedi Batshabang, were unsuccessful.

Although he had promised to respond to a questionnaire sent to him last week, he had not done so at the time of going to print this week.

Calls to his cellphones also rang unanswered.

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