Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which together host the largest population of elephants in Africa, have thrown their weight behind Botswana’s decision to open a national dialogue on the overpopulation of the species.
A ministerial committee recently submitted a report on the issue to President Mokgweetsi Masisi, including several recommendations on elephant overpopulation, including the lifting of the 2014 hunting ban and greater empowerment of communities living with the animals.
The recommendations sparked intense local and international debate with prominent conservationists referring to them as “blood laws,” while other experts and researchers have defended them noting that the overpopulation was impacting negatively on other species and communities. Masisi has said high-level consultations will continue before final decisions are taken.
In a communique released after a meeting of the five countries under the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZATFCA) last Thursday, environment ministers said they support Botswana’s new policies and programmes on elephant population management and sustainable use.
“We recognise that the areas of the KAZA TFCA are inhabited by human populations.
“The livelihoods of the rural communities revolve around pastoralism, hunting, fishing,
Harvesting of reeds and sedges, growing of crops and employment as skilled labour,
Notably indifferent sectors of a vibrant tourism industry. “It is imperative that any programme to promote the conservation of biodiversity must on the other hand sustain and have a positive impact on the standard of living of these rural communities, and elephant management and sustainable use there of is no exception,” the ministers said in a joint communique after the meeting in Victoria Falls, Harare.
The ministers said they noted
“We therefore call upon critics on elephant population management and status to stop and allow the Republic of Botswana, and KAZA TFCA in general, to implement policies and programmes on elephant management and sustainable use thereof, for improved economic growth, species management and community livelihoods,” the ministers said.
The ministers said, instead, critics would better use their energy providing support to sound elephant management practices in particularly programmes such as human wildlife conflict management, community based natural resources management, strengthening law enforcement and combating cross-border natural resource management in the KAZA TCF.
Masisi has previously said Botswana will prioritise citizens’ lives in the elephant debate and on Thursday stressed that the new policy moves would not involve culling of elephants.
“We have been misconstrued and misunderstood,” he said during a visit by Tiffany & Co CEO, Alessandro Bogliolo at the Office of the President.
“There are irresponsible and reckless words like culling that have been used. We were never for culling and we will not cull.
“The material fact is that we have very many elephants and what we did is open up a social dialogue on the possibility of not renewing the ban on hunting.”
“We are going to be ramping up our efforts in that and we will share the strategy.”