In the tumultuous time when the previous president and his successor have been feuding over leadership prioritisation, the reality as all and sundry know it, regarding the elephants has certainly proved to be a uniting point with a consistent message to the outside world.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi had barely been airborne by Friday evening when former President Ian Khama sat in front of an interactive audience at the prestigious University of Oxford – the same institution that had hosted Masisi two days earlier.
Among other topics that the Oxford Union Society asked Khama to address was the conservation strategy of Botswana, especially focusing on the elephants’ publicised story in the mainstream media.
“The human-animal conflict and in particular elephants is due to the population that has ballooned over the recent past. It has become explosive. Because of the Dineo Cyclone, there had been water everywhere and therefore elephants left their normal habitat to move closer to where people live. Another reason is that in Zimbabwe the man-made sources of water broke down and they were not able to repair them, so their elephants migrated into Botswana. Again, the wholesale poaching in the neighbouring countries has caused these elephants to seek refuge in Botswana, where to date, our conservation strategy remains the best in Africa. Did you know that of Africa’s elephant population, 40 percent is in Botswana? It is undoubtedly because of our excellent wildlife management track record,” Khama explained.
He said that the green economy was a declaration for sustainability that was formulated in Gaborone in 2012 and seeks to ensure a balance in the eco-system as an asset that can be nurtured to achieve economic development.
Through the elephant protection initiative that should be facilitated through a vigorous public, private partnerships, organised crime might be defeated.
“The action plan from the EPI must include the lives of the individuals residing in these areas where elephants are found,” stated Khama.
It is not common nowadays that the two leaders agree on a lot of topics, but there seemed no room for either of them to give an account that is not resonant with the peculiar situation of Botswana, even with a deliberate effort by the moderator who tempted Khama to support the recent findings by Mike Chase of Elephant without Borders. Chase was alone – it was clear.
Earlier on in the week when calling fellow leaders to action at the opening of the international conference, Masisi adamantly said that the human-animal conflict was a sore sight that the world could turn a blind eye to while chanting animal rights at the detriment of loss of human life.
His perspective was human-animal conflict that he wanted the whole world to pay attention to and help Botswana [to] address in the manner there was a balance between preservation of wildlife and sustenance of its people who should benefit from the large population of these dangerous animals.
“It is therefore my fervent hope that the IWT conference will generate ideas and recommendations that will help all the stakeholders come up with concrete solutions that will help governments eliminate the illegal trade in wildlife species while addressing the aspirations of those who live with these resources…It is against this background that my government has started national consultative meetings with different communities on national elephant action plan and human wildlife conflicts. The outcome of these consultations will help my government to make informed decisions on solutions to the human-wildlife conflict,” Masisi was adamant.
It was as if Khama had paid close attention to his president’s script– were it not that the conservation enthusiast who has just been appointed to chair Africa’s conservation inter-governmental organisation was speaking off-the-cuff. Khama is the distinguished fellow of Conservation International – a United States of America-based organisation.