The head of Investigations Unit in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Lewis Mokowe said that poaching and trading of wildlife continue to rise in the country.
Speaking at a three-day Wildlife Judicial and Prosecutorial Assistance Training workshop organised by the African Wildlife Funding in Gaborone recently, Mokowe said his department has observed two trends of poaching in the country, which are commercial and subsistence. He explained that from their investigations over the years, they have realised that the country was losing a number of wildlife species to poaching.
“We have realised that elephant poaching in Botswana continues to rise more especially around the Ngami and Chobe areas and a little found in the Tuli Block area where pockets of elephants are found in the area. Furthermore, we have lost a rhino since 2013 to 2017. Last month this year, we have seen the pattern changing. Of recent, we lost two rhinos at Limpopo Lipadi Game Reserve towards the end of May. By the first week of June, we lost a rhino at Gantsi,” he said.
He added that both cases were still under investigation. Mokowe explained that that came as a shock to them and it hit them unexpectedly. He acknowledged that even though they knew that rhinos were targeted by poachers, they realised that the poachers were well organised adding that they had not expected the impact to come so heavily on their department.
The department has observed that commercially driven poaching is prevalent at the southern west part of the country, which is in the Kgalagadi area where trading live predators has become a norm. Mokowe said this trade involves live predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs. He said that was attributed by the fact that animals found in that area are also close to the South African border.
“In most cases the live curbs, after their mothers are shot and killed, are taken across the border so that they can be used
“The ranch owner invites some hunters to shoot these curbs in his property. That is not fair hunting or fair deal because immediately when you find a customer, you release it into your farm and then the hunter will easily track it and then shoot it. They then claim to have hunted one of the big fives in Africa,” he said.
Mokowe said they were also experiencing the increased sale of the skin, teeth and nails of those predators, which attributed to the escalating wildlife poaching in the country. He said the numbers of poached animals were doubling from 2015 to 2016, which was alarming.
He also explained that their findings have shown a steady increase of poached antelopes that are either killed for commercial or subsistence. He said in some places more especially the southwestern part of Botswana, poaching of antelopes was thriving. He pointed out that people with cash power used commoners such as herd boys to hunt the animals and then sell their meat as biltong to civil servants in developed villages such as Kang, Hukuntsi, Tsabong while some of it is sold in cities like Gaborone.
The perpetrators of these crimes are said to be former local military workers, game reserve workers and the police. Some are from outside the country, which makes it hard for the wildlife department to nab them. Some are said to be working with various government officials such as those in immigration, law enforcement and even from within wildlife protection entities.