Once again the world’s kings and queens of conservation outrage are pointing their lasers of scorn at Botswana, following the successful auction of 60 commercial elephant hunting licences last Friday.

The now all-too familiar calls for a boycott of local tourism are rising. The demonstration at our Washington DC embassy has presumably again taken place. The appeals to celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Brad Pitt and Ellen DeGeneres are again being made.

The well-known dramatis personae of hostile media are again leading the charge, with the Independent in the United Kingdom calling the auction a “global conservation disaster”.Botswana’s good name, well and carefully curated over the decades, is again being blackened by the robustly coordinated and well-resourced enemies of wildlife sustainable use.

Search Google or social for “Botswana” and tonnes of negative articles appear each accusing Botswana and its leadership of everything from short-sightedness to greed to crimes against the environment.

As noted before, none of this is new. Botswana has faced this same dogged opposition and hostility at each instance that it has attempted to touch the 2014 moratorium on hunting.As happened before, keyboard outrage warriors sound the warning bells, before their allies in the Western media catch wind and amplify whatever development has taken place with highly emotive, sensationalised and downright false articles and assumptions.

What is concerning is that for a country that prides itself on prudent planning, the communication strategy to counter the inevitable backlash is conspicuously absent from the various documents underpinning the policy.Essentially, strategies underpinning the resumption of hunting include the documents that emerged after the extensive consultation conducted in 2018, the elephant census results, CBNRM guidelines, possible hunting guidelines and others.

What is absent is an effective communication and even counter-communication strategy to effectively deal with the potentially harmful global fallout of implementing the resumption of hunting.

Government is famously pedantic when it comes to strategies and has borne much criticism for engaging endless consultants to develop endless plans before making a policy move. Indeed, even the digging of a burrow pit requires extensive assessments and approvals!It is difficult to understand why in this instance, with the foreknowledge of the existence of harmful, well-resourced, coordinated and committed oppositional forces, government could not formulate a communication strategy, particularly when it experienced these forces’ power the first time the moratorium was lifted.A good communication strategy would include identifying the desired outcomes, anticipating the reaction to any developments around hunting, whether positive, negative, hostile or sinister, identifying the actors to be engaged locally and internationally, the channels to be used and the resources to be availed for success.

It would replace the current scenario where journalists are haphazardly calling various officials and “experts” for information and reactions, producing a hotchpotch of dubious stories which are easy fodder for the enemies of this Republic who are clearly bent on twisting everything to fit their agenda.

We can and must do better.

Editor's Comment
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