PARLIAMENT APPROVES WILDLIFE SUPPLEMENTARY FUNDING
Parliament has approved the P41.6 million supplementary funding request for the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism. After debating the request for the supplementary funding on Wednesday, a majority of MPs voted in favour of the request whose intention is to enable the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to address the challenge of elephant movements to areas which were previously not populated by elephants.
Contributing to the debate, MP Ignatius Moswaane of Francistown West said the request for supplementary funding by the ministry was necessary as the funds were needed to address a key challenge.
Mr Moswaane said the movement of elephants to areas where they were previously not present increased cases of human-wildlife conflict, and that the challenge needed to be addressed speedily. On the proposed purchase of used helicopters for use in driving away elephants, the MP said the ministry had justified the move by assuring the finance and estimates committee that the helicopters were in a condition that would allow for them to serve the purpose for which they were procured.
Also in support of the request for additional funding, Okavango MP, Mr Bagalatia Arone also concurred that the encroachment of elephants into other parts of the country escalated human-wildlife conflict.
Mr Arone, however, emphasised the need to come up with lasting solutions to the challenge, saying driving the elephants away with helicopters would not work in the long run as it would lose its effectiveness. He said elephants would get used to the new measure and would ultimately not respond to it in the anticipated manner. He also questioned the amount of money spent in the purchase of ammunition, saying given the ministry’ stance that elephants should not be shot, it made one wonder whether the ammunition was not for shooting poachers.
MP Wynter Mmolotsi of Francistown South expressed concern at the proposed purchase of the three used helicopters for use in driving elephants back to where they had come from. He wondered why government would prefer to buy second hand helicopters, saying it would be better if new helicopters were bought in phases until the required number was reached.
Mr Mmolotsi also said he did not see the reason why the creation of 104 new posts was included in the request.
He argued that posts should always be planned for since they did not fall under the category of unforeseen expenses.
Ghanzi North MP, Mr Noah Salakae also disagreed with the proposal for the purchase of second hand helicopters. He said the helicopters would end up costing government more through repairs.
Mr Salakae also said time had come that the elephant population should be reduced, saying in addition to destroying everything in their path, the animals continued to impoverish Batswana by destroying their sources of livelihood. The MP also wondered where the elephants would be driven to with the helicopters.
For his part, Chobe MP, Mr Machana Shamukuni blamed the wide movement of elephants on the hunting ban, saying prior to the move Botswana was able to contain its wildlife. Mr Shamukuni said Botswana’s neighbours continued with trophy hunting, adding that as a result wild animals from neighbouring countries crossed into the country where they roamed freely. He said as long as the country upheld the hunting ban, its wildlife would continue to benefit other countries more than it did Botswana. He said the funds that the ministry requested would have easily been raised through trophy hunting of the same elephants whose movement needed to be controlled.
Major General Pius Mokgware of Gabane-Mmankgodi complained about the high elephant population, saying it was necessary to cull the elephants so as to bring them into controllable numbers. He said driving them back was a temporary solution which was not even sustainable.
Boteti West MP, Mr Slumber Tsogwane acknowledged that human-wildlife conflict was a major challenge with no easy solution. He said government had for years been criticised for not doing enough to solve the problem, adding that resources constraints and competing priorities had made it difficult for government to speedily and effectively address the challenge.
Mr Tsogwane, however, implored the minister to continue engaging organisations such as CITES with the view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
Maun East MP, Mr Kostantinos Markus said driving elephants away was not the solution as it meant driving them to other people who would then have to bear the brunt of their destruction. He appealed for the lifting of the hunting ban, saying that it would ensure that people did not continue to suffer excessively due to the elephants’ destruction.
The MP for Boteti East, Mr Sethomo Lelatisitswe called for the confinement of elephants to game parks. He said fencing off parks and confining the elephants in there would solve the problem.
MP Ndaba Gaolathe of Gaborone Bonnington South said it was worrying that each year the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism requested for emergency funding.
Mr Gaolathe said the current request did not even qualify to be deemed an emergency. He said it was critical in future that the request for emergency funding be accompanied by performance data to show the efforts that had been made in achieving the objective for which extra funds were being sought.
MP Samson Guma of Tati East said by law supplementary funding was used in emergency situations, saying the request before Parliament was a budgetary item. He said the continued use of supplementaries would in the long term erode the country’s laid-out processes and procedures.
Mr Guma said helicopters would not solve the challenge, arguing that chasing the elephants away after they had destroyed crops would not qualify as a solution. He said it was surprising that while government always spoke of shortage of funds, all of a sudden funds became available for use in driving away elephants.
For his part, MP Edwin Batshu of Nkange called for the speedy procurement of the helicopters, noting that they would help in controlling the movement of elephants. Mr Batshu also called for the driving away of elephants through the killing of one in the herd to scare them away, saying firing shots into the air had become ineffective. (BOPA)