Communities petition British High Commission over hunting bill

Ngamiland Communities walking to British High Commission. PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Ngamiland Communities walking to British High Commission. PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Scores marched through the streets of Gaborone today to hand over a petition to the British High Commission, protesting the United Kingdom's anti-hunting bill.

The bill, which failed to pass at the House of Lords last year, is due to be re-tabled later this month, but Botswana is amongst southern Africans lobbying against the instrument. The Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (NCONGO), an umbrella organisation representing communities living alongside wildlife, led the march from the National Stadium to present the petition to the British High Commission's nature and climate change lead, Mark Ssemakula. Handing over the document, Poniso Shamukuni, who is the chairperson of the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust outlined reasons why the hunting ban should not be effected. The Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust is a member of NCONGO. "We the communities living alongside wildlife represented by 22 Community Trusts across Botswana, write to you today with deep concern regarding the proposed bill to be presented to the UK Parliament on the prohibition of importation of trophies from CITES-listed species for importation to the United Kingdom," the petition reads. Shamukuni, through the petition, said Botswana has a long and proud conservation history, and that trophy hunting is a vital revenue source for communities living alongside wildlife.

Further, he said the absence of a hunting ban, as experienced around 2014, led to an increase in human-wildlife population, particularly as elephants strayed into non-wildlife range areas. Wildlife often damages crops and in some instances injures and kills humans, the petition noted.

"Trophy hunting can serve as a conservation tool when implemented responsibly and with consideration for wildlife populations. It aids in managing wildlife distribution, particularly the elephant population, to mitigate negative impacts on vegetation, agriculture, and livestock farming," Shamukuni said.

He said contrary to misconceptions, hunting in Botswana is controlled with particularly ageing male elephants targeted. In the petition, NCONGO argues that if a hunting ban is implemented, poaching incidences are likely to rise, as witnessed previously.

Shamukuni said it would be disastrous to ban hunting as the livelihood of communities living alongside animals would be greatly affected as they rely on wildlife-based tourism.

"We implore your government to carefully consider the implications of enacting The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill. Such a decision could have far-reaching negative consequences on wildlife populations, exacerbate human-wildlife conflicts, undermine conservation efforts, and impact the livelihoods and well-being of communities residing in wildlife areas," the communities plead.

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