A Presidential sub-committee of Cabinet chaired by Local Government and Rural Development minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is set to launch a two-month nationwide consultation to review the four-year old ban on hunting activities.
This will be through diKgotla, local authorities and involving interest groups.
Venson-Moitoi on Friday told The Monitor that the consultations, which will kick-off when the winter Parliament adjourns, will also include representatives of professional hunters and members of the Community-based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme.
“It will be a comprehensive consultation process, in which the committee will be assisted by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, in order to make a decision on the matter,” she said.
The latest developments follow Parliament’s adoption on Wednesday of a motion by Maun East legislator, Kosta Markus for government to “consider lifting the ban on hunting and shooting of elephants in areas that are not designated as game reserves and national parks”.
The motion received overwhelming support from legislators across the floor, although several in the opposition slated Markus for introducing a last minute amendment to his motion which they said took the sting out of it.
Markus’ motion had initially been to ask government to lift the ban, but on Wednesday he introduced an amendment asking government to “consider lifting the ban”.
Tabled as a ‘Definite Matter of Urgent Public Importance’, Markus said the latest available figures showed a national elephant population of 237,000, against a carrying capacity of 50,000, which he said had been worsened by the hunting ban imposed in 2014.
“The increased expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities, especially those in Nkange, Mmadinare, Boteti, Ngamiland, Chobe or northern Botswana where crop damage and lack of harvest due to elephants is prevalent,” he said.
The MP said a 2016 study in Chobe District indicated a reduction in agricultural yields annually due to “crop raiding”.
He said the hunting ban had also robbed communities of millions of pula they used to earn annually from trophy hunting activities, as well as hundreds of jobs.
“In the first 12 months of the hunting ban, communities involved in the Community Based Natural Resources Management Programme in Ngamiland lost approximately P7 million and 200 jobs.
The Centre for Applied Research notes that Community-Based Organisations, which practised hunting experienced revenue decline from P11.3 million in 2012 to P5.6 million in 2015,” he said.
Legislators agreed with Markus, with many citing instances of how elephants and other problem animals had left villagers impoverished through the destruction of crops and killing of livestock.
“Maloba ke fa tlou e tlhasetse stand pipe ka fa Kweneng kafa, e diga gotlhe le dijojo mo merakeng e e koo, e senya,” said Kgosi Moremi Tawana, Maun West legislator.
On Friday, Environment minister, Tshekedi Khama told The Monitor that the matter was complex and needed to be looked at without emotions taking over.
“Markus’ motion says elephants outside game reserves and national parks should be shot, but what he does not know is that only 32% of the elephant population is inside those parks and reserves,” he said.
“If you adopt that, you are saying a lot of them should be shot and the question is whether that is the reputation of Botswana we want internationally. Even domestically, how do you manage that?
“That’s something whose consequence has to be managed.
“The decision Cabinet has taken is to engage the whole nation and see if the ban should be continued, or what species should be considered and in which areas.”
He added: “For now, the ban is still in place and there’s a lot to be considered. We cannot satisfy everyone, but the emotion must be removed from this and we should think properly and make decisions based on species and livelihoods.”