- Botswana comes out fighting in Rhino COP 19 report
Botswana has submitted its report on rhinos to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Fauna (CITES) in an effort to clear the air around the way it manages the endangered animal.
Updating the just ended CITES Conference of all Parties (COP 19) in Panama, Botswana accused western Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) of effectively lying about our rhinos.
“There has been deliberate misinformation campaigns on rhino poaching in Botswana including claims that the government is not working well with other range states in managing rhino poaching, and that government does not share information on rhinos with non-state actors ,” reads the heated report.
Published on CITES website for all 184 member states to see, the document continues, “Regrettably these misleading claims are made by non-Batswana based NGOs that have little understanding on what is happening in the country, yet they had not engaged the government of Botswana to establish facts.”
According to Director of Wildlife and National Parks, Kabelo Senyatso, the doc was compiled to address the country’s rhino conservation interventions and update CITES on historical rhino population and poaching trends, the species re-introduction and measures in place to counter rhino poaching.
Currently Botswana has 285 southern white rhino and 23 south central black rhino – an impressive comeback considering poachers had totally wiped the animla out by the early 1900s.
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“Historically combined effects of unregulated hunting and poaching during the 18th century led to a significant decline of rhino population across Africa. As a result rhinos went extinct in Botswana in the late 1890s. However, between 1967 and 1976, 46 white rhinos were reintroduced into Northern Botswana with an additional 92 re-introduced between 1978 and 1976,” states the report.
An aerial survey conducted in 1987 counted approximately 120 rhinos instead of the expected 150. A follow-up survey in 1992 confirmed a drastic population decline.
A decision was then taken to relocate the rhinos from the northern region to fenced-in sanctuary, according to govt with an objective to breed them. This was supplemented by new additions from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Between 2001 and 2003 some of the rhinos were re-introduced back into the wilderness including Moremi Game reserve in the Okavango Delta.
However, after six relatively peaceful years in which just two rhinos were poached, in 2018 the country’s rhino population was hit by a sudden surge in the scourge. The report notes this rise coincided with a decline in poaching in South Africa.
Last year, a slight drop was again recorded in Botswana, with the crime shifting back to SA and Namibia; the local authorities believe this indicates a syndicate of poachers are operating within the region.
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“It is noteworthy that there is a significant decline in rhino poaching incidences between 2020 and 2022, following the peak in 2020. This decline is a direct result of the government response in the form of various interventions,” argues the report, pointing to interventions such as dehorning of rhinos among others.
“Misguided calls by some western NGOs calling for each of the interventions to be evaluated in isolation (such as whether dehorning by itself curbed rhino poaching) are misleading and divert attention from the key indicator that matters, which is whether overall rhino poaching is decreasing or increasing. It is clear that conservation and anti poaching efforts have been intensified to combat poaching across the country since COP-18 and there is explicit evidence of a decline in rhino poaching in 2021 and 2022, relative to the 2020 peak.”
Further Botswana contended it has improved the ecological management of rhinos in fenced-in areas for better breeding performances to ensure the targeted growth rate is met.
Botswana is an active member of several regional and international structures meant to build collaborative relations with other regional states to combat transnational wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trade. This includes the SADC Interpol Rhino and Elephant Security Group, Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group, Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
“Through these programmes, Botswana coordinates its anti poaching operations with those of its neighbours, such as epitomised implementation of the SADC law enforcement and action plan (SADC LEAP) which has further been cascaded for implementation within KAZA TFCA landscape by Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.”