Tempers flare against Khama’s UK mission

Bame Piet
PETITIONERS: 22 community trusts condemned the former President for supporting the Bill

His campaign has a potential to destroy lives

Non Governmental Organisations and Community Based Trusts living alongside wildlife across the country gathered in Gaborone to petition the British High Commission to Botswana.

They expressed concern regarding the proposed Bill to ban importation of trophy hunting products from CITES-listed species into the United Kingdom.

The Bill is scheduled to be presented in the House of Commons in a few weeks, and former President Ian Khama is reportedly supporting it.

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Speakers representing about 22 community trusts condemned the former president for supporting the Bill saying he has turned against his own people, whose livelihoods depend heavily on trophy hunting revenues.

Dr Moses Selebatso from Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) said that they fully support the contents of the petition by the community trusts since BOCONGO understands the plight of the people living side by side with wild animals.

Dr Selebatso added that many of trophy hunters are from the UK where hunting is permitted.

“Any attempt to ban trophy hunting imports is an indirect order to stop Batswana from hunting. I once forgave the former president when he first introduced the hunting ban in 2014, because he did not appreciate the position of Batswana. But, in 2018, it was clear that our people want to hunt their wildlife and I’m disappointed that he is now leading a campaign that has a potential to destroy the lives of, and impoverish, the people he once led,” said Dr Selebatso, who is a member of the Kalahari Research and Conservation.

He said revenues generated from trophy hunting are reinvested back into conservation and into improving the lives of the people in conservation areas.

A representative from Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust said they were able to generate around P4million from trophy hunting in recent years and the funds were distributed to kick off development projects in member villages.

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Other speakers said that other dangerous species such as lions, leopards, and other big cats are a permanent threat to their lives, and their livestock and, if the animals are allowed to overpopulate, the result will have many negative implications.

Chronicling the Botswana conservation success story, the petitioners pointed out that 40 percent of the country is set aside for biodiversity conservation and the country hosts 132 000 out of 277 900 elephants in the KAZA area.

The concerned communities also highlighted that the 2014 ban led to an increase in elephant population, resulting in human-wildlife conflict, making livestock and crop production almost impossible in elephant populated areas and an average of 10 people killed by wild animals annually while the lucky ones escape with permanent injuries.

Pointing out benefits to communities, the speakers noted that some community development projects were able to take off as a result of revenues accrued from trophy hunting and that the 2014-2019 ban resulted in complete loss of financial benefits for some local communities and reinstating the ban will be devastating.

The protesters said the practice of controlled trophy hunting is well-regulated and guided by annual wildlife quotas set by the government, selective targeting of specific animals, and adherence to ethical hunting standards.

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Some of the practices include targeting old males and avoiding hunting of females and young animals.

The trusts stated that there are collaborative efforts with other countries and organisations in the conservation sphere and these are likely to be impacted by decisions related to wildlife management practices and policies.

“We implore the government to carefully consider implications of enacting the Hunting Trophies Bill. Such decision could have far-reaching negative consequences on livelihoods and wellbeing of communities residing in wildlife areas.”

Meanwhile, The CEO of SKI Foundation, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, has said that the former president’s recent trip to London was misunderstood and that he was not campaigning for a ban on trophy hunting.