Bhejane Trust newsletter

THE ONGOING RHINO MASSACRE IN BOTSWANA

The relentless slaughter of rhino continues unabated in the Okavango Delta and at the current rate there will be no rhino left in the Delta within a few months. It is quite incredible that so much effort and money was spent bringing the rhino into the Delta, and then they are not properly protected! They were losing about 2 rhino a week at the beginning of the year, but  the rate has picked up to almost a rhino a day at present (12 were lost in one week recently). It is believed there were about 250 rhino in the Delta, but this number must be well below 200 by now. By year end there will be only a very few scattered surviving rhino, and it will mark the biggest failure of rhino translocations ever

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) who are tasked with patrolling the area and protecting the rhino are a military unit and are absolutely useless at anti-poaching. Poachers interrogated in Zimbabwe admitted that poaching is Botswana is easy – if you hear a helicopter, stand under a tree, and anti-track across the roads and then you are safe! The only solution is boots on the ground – not army boots but highly mobile specially trained units. There is a desperate need for outside experienced help to organise the anti-poaching effort and put in the required highly mobile armed reaction units to follow up on the poachers. Botswana should have tracking skills available – the bushmen or unemployed trackers from the closed hunting companies, which could team up with the reaction units – one wonders why the BDF do not use them.  Intelligence is also vital but this takes time to develop.

It appears that there are several poaching gangs now operating on Chiefs Island. These gangs are Zambian based professionals, whom we are well acquainted with in Zimbabwe!. The Zambians are wary of Zimbabwe and are going around through Namibia, where they seem to have teamed up with some Namibians. The Namibians authorities have had some success in arresting a couple of poaching gangs transiting through Namibia though. The poachers enjoy high level support in Zambia, where they get armed and equipped and which is a clearing house for rhino horn and ivory
There was a dumb article in the Mmegi (a local Botswana newspaper) about the government buying more body bags for the poachers – someone has to get out there and shoot the poachers first and the current success rate of the BDF will certainly not dent their body bag stocks. The government has no idea what to do – they are talking about de-horning which might create enough disturbance to disrupt the poachers temporarily but will not deter them. Unfortunately, the whole poaching issue also seems to have been politicised by the Government, which is further hindering any action. Thus, the Government is dithering while the rhino are wiped out – a “Nero” scenario!

One day the government will proudly announce the poaching is under control – what they won’t announce is that there are no rhino left! Problem solved!!

Once the rhino are finished, the gangs will go back to poaching elephant – it is estimated that over 1000 elephant bulls were poached in Botswana over the last couple of years. Inevitably, this onslaught will soon resume again, the rhino are just more lucrative at the moment. Like the rhino, there is no protection for the elephant in Botswana.