Khama defends tourists searches


MAUN: Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has defended the searching of tourists by security services at Botswana’s tourists destinations airports.

This comes after some tour operators have been reportedly irked by the operation which apparently started this week and will end of this month.

Last week some media reports pointed out that some tour operators expressed a concern that some Swiss and German tourists were extremely angry after being subjected to a security check as they alighted bush aircrafts from the Okavango Delta at Maun International airport.

Last year Mmegi reported an incident where a Briton who was returning from a safari in the Okavango Delta was found with a hippo tooth tucked in a bag at Maun airport.

The man briefly appeared before Maun magistrate’s court and paid a fine of P 1,000, for possession of a government trophy.

The incident was detected during an operation to search for government trophies. However, the searches have been a source of worry among the tour operators.

In an interview Khama revealed that the search is part of an ongoing international operation which is currently taking place even in the neighbouring countries.

He said the operations are annual and part of an international crack down on illegal trafficking on wildlife products.

“This operation does not only happen in Botswana but it is worldwide,” he  said,  adding that all the tourists will be searched during the course of the operation. 

Moreover, Khama said it is not only tourists who are searched during this period, but Batswana also. Khama however, said officials need to adequately explain to the tourists and not disrespect them during the search Contacted for comment, Ngamiland Wildlife coordinator Bolt Othomile said he was not in a position to divulge details on the ongoing operation for security reasons.

However, he said no one has been caught this year in possession of a government trophy during this year’s operation.

Othomile revealed that there is generally an increase in wildlife related crimes in Ngamiland particularly elephant poaching.

He said in the period between 2012 and 2013 his office registered 18 cases of elephant poaching.

Out of these cases, 37 citizens and 11 foreigners  were arrested, in the 2014-2015 period, 14 cases of elephant poaching were recorded in Ngamiland out of which 14 citizens and three foreigners were arrested.

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