Derek Joubert’s opinion piece of what he wishes to be referred to as the 'Blood law', the white paper that has been submitted to the Botswana government recommending wildlife utilisation in a series of suggestions, is once again the emotional attack on anything that might aid many of Botswana’s communities and the less fortunate people than his ‘guests and friends’ of Great Plains Conservation.
It might also come to the aid of many species that are dwindling in Botswana due to massive elephant pressure on habitat in a country that does not exactly boast vast tracts of suitable elephant habitat.
l ‘The opening up of the largely condemned hunting of elephants and all wildlife again’
Largely condemned by whom? Those that do not have a dog in the fight, those that are privileged to go to bed each night with a full stomach, those that do not live amongst the ravages of wildlife conflict, those that do not rely on funding from such hunting, responsibly done? If the wildlife that inhabits the riverine along the Chobe had a voice, what would they say to the utter destruction and devastation of their habitat brought on by over populated elephant numbers? This should be enough to convince the world that something needs to be done and that elephants are not the be all and end all of African wildlife species of both fauna and flora.
It is a fact that most of the communities that benefited from hunting whilst it was permitted have suffered hugely due to the lack of what it brought to their lives, employment and finances, they have been spoken to and their voice has been heard in the ‘white paper’. Oh and contrary to the recent comment of feeding communities ‘rotting elephant carcasses’ I have to admit that due to the number of elephant carcasses often taken to the communities, some meat does spoil! So let us fix that problem and utilise more carefully that precious protein that is so desperately sought after by many underprivileged people in Botswana. Hunting quotas are a very small number in the context of elephant populations, which are estimated to be in excess of 150,000 animals. If for the sake of argument one can say that 50% of these are bulls and only 10% of these are bulls that can be hunted with regard to age and the quota is around the 300 mark, this is four percent of that bull population or 0.2 percent of the entire Botswana herd, which is said to increase by five percent per annum or for us layman an increase of 7,500 elephant per annum, hunting 300 bulls can never be regarded as culling nor will it ever be detrimental to elephant populations in Botswana. However, it can and does benefit poorer communities in the financial sense and employment of individuals.
By opening up the hunting concessions that once were, those that are in marginal game areas, especially in the North East of the country, it will spread the ‘load’ so to speak of elephant populations. Those areas are currently seasonal and once they dry out elephants move to the Chobe River area and the devastation beggars belief. Opening hunting concessions must accompany responsible habitat management and the inclusion of boreholes, which produce good water that holds elephant in such areas for long periods during the dry times, it prevents them from having to move to natural water such as the Chobe River and the Okvango Delta, both at immense risk of habitat destruction through elephant numbers, a fact that no one can deny!
Dr Erik Verreynne wrote an excellent piece in Africa Geo in September 2018. It summed up all in regard to hunting and its lack of detriment and the good that it can do if carried out responsibly.
l ‘The culling of massive numbers of elephant’
No one likes the idea of culling huge numbers of elephant and in a sense Botswana is beyond the point of no return with regard to that idea. How does one ever cull even the five percent increase per annum that the herd is supposed to increase by, even to hold a static population of roughly 150,000 it would mean culling the five percent increase (7,500 per annum).
Can one get one’s head around that sort of figure, I doubt it and this has been created by the selfsame people that have fought against the culling of elephants over the years, the Kruger National Park in South Africa will face the same predicament should they not start a culling programme in the very near future that area is still manageable. Let us not be having the same discussion in 15 years’ time!
It is all good and well to think that there is so much of Africa bordering these high elephant density areas, but the idea that as the herds increase they migrate into Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe is fraught with falsehoods! Not through hunting have the numbers of elephants been decimated in many of these bordering countries, but through wars! If one takes the time span since these wars finally ended, not one has reached the time span of a sub adult elephant. Many thousands of elephants lived through these wars and they were exploited to the full, in the acquisition of ivory to fund much of what transpired in those days!
Do they forget? No they do not! I have witnessed this first hand on many occasions. They stay where their sanctity is secure and who can blame them? So it will take many, many years for a trust to build where they feel safe and Aunts will teach their offspring to migrate into new or territory that is now safe! We do not have that sort of time available!
Meanwhile Rome burns, for the fragile wildlife habitats like that of the Chobe and the Okavango bare the brunt of a natural onslaught that will in the not too distant future, destroy that which we hold so dear and is so vital to our wildlife heritage, habitat!
So if not to cull, what is the answer? If we say no to this action, what do we say yes to? Public opinion must not dictate this answer, for public opinion is emotional and not objective! We need decisions that are objective made at the highest level for the most important decision ever made on the future of Botswana’s wildlife jewel!
l Should a cull take place in the name of all I have mentioned, why should the meat not be responsibly utilised? Why should it not be canned and sold. Not into pet food but into a wholesome meal such as was the case with many cans of stew we used to purchase in the Kruger National Park rest camps. A canned stew made from the elephant and buffalo that were annually culled in the KNP. A delicious healthy option to the vast array of lesser pure meats canned for daily human consumption.
Thousands of souls in Africa crying out for protein and yet we wish to bury this sustainable product borne through necessity, for that is what it is currently.
Do we honestly view these elephants as untouchable? Do our larger wildlife populations and we give them ‘godlike’ status or do we manage them in a sensible manner in the hope that one day a balance will be struck and that we will no longer need to cull.
l The fences I wholeheartedly agree with Derek’s comment. It is a vile manner in trying to cut off migration routes et al, I have personally witnessed the damage those very fences that were erected in Botswana years ago created and it is a blight on their conservation ethic! Protecting communities from wildlife conflict is a far cry from fencing off wildlife routes and migratory patterns. This must be fought against, with vigour!
l As per D.
I will not ask for a global outcry to this response, merely reading it and thinking a little about what I have said will be sufficient. We can feed emotion and we can feed much of what is not objective, but what we cannot feed is the ability in 30 years’ time to reverse the problem with elephant numbers that by then will have ensured the absolute demise of both the Chobe River riverine habitat and all wildlife that relies on it and the Okavango Delta, one of the most incredible wildlife sanctuaries on the planet.
At that point those that supported the naming of a law meant to save our wildlife and fought against having it responsibly enacted, well, the only blood left to discuss will be that on your hands!
*Paul Stones is a professional hunter