RESPONSE TO ARTICLE BY MR ROSS HARVEY IN BOTSWANA GUARDIAN
We have read with great interest the article published by Mr Ross Harvey in the Botswana Guardian dated 06th March 2020. We wish to correct several misconceptions and misrepresentations that appear in the article.
Firstly, we wish to put it on record that the Government of Botswana does not apologise for implementing wildlife conservation and management strategies that benefit all of those who live within her borders.
Our wildlife policy emphasises the need to safeguard the continued sustenance of our wildlife resources while ensuring that those who coexist with those resources benefit meaningfully.
We have set aside 40% of the country (one of the highest percentages in the world) to conserve wildlife and Botswana has a long standing track record in conserving her wildlife heritage for prosperity. We also have a long standing record for managing our wildlife through sustainable utilisation as espoused in our wildlife conservation policy.
It must be understood that hunting has never been banned in Botswana. A suspension was put in place in 2014 in terms of the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act.
This moratorium was subsequently renewed on an annual basis up until 31 October 2018 when it lapsed. Consultations on the re-instatement of hunting began in August 2018 and not during the “peak of the tourism season 2019” as alleged by the author.
Hunting has been practiced for many years in Botswana. Currently hunting is regulated under the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks (Hunting and Licensing) Regulations of 2001.
We challenge the author to demonstrate that quotas issued in the past have in anyway caused our wildlife populations to decline. On the contrary during the same period, the elephant population has increased significantly.
Botswana sits in the heart of a region that has clearly demonstrated that prudent sustainable utilisation can serve as a catalyst for wildlife conservation. If consumptive use has no place in the management of wildlife, why then does the southern African region sit with the bulk of iconic species such as elephants and rhinos among others? Surely this has not happened by accident.
The Government of Botswana is well within her rights to respond to the call for evidence published by the United Kingdom Government. In addition to the letter referenced by Mr Harvey, additional submissions were made by the Government of Botswana.
Other parties likely to be affected negatively or otherwise by any decision to restrict import of hunting trophies were also free to submit their own evidence.
Mr Harvey doubts the inclusiveness of the consultative process that led to the re-instatement of hunting. He is more than welcome to come to Botswana to interact with farming and pastoral communities whose livelihoods are impacted by human-wildlife conflict on a daily basis.
The people of Botswana have a right to make a living to support themselves and their families. It is the responsibility of Government to provide a conducive and safe environment for people. We will always welcome constructive dialogue with those who are willing to engage and understand the real complexities of managing wildlife resources.
We, however, do not have the luxury of engaging in armchair conservation.
Oduetse O. Koboto (Dr)
Ag. PERMANENT SECRETARY