Johannesburg – A week before Botswana hosts two key wildlife conservation conferences, a small group of lawmakers are seeking a review of a 2014 commercial hunting ban designed to reverse a decline in wildlife.
Botswana is home to a third of the world’s elephants, but three of the diamond-rich country’s 61 legislators believe elephants have multiplied to the point they are now “terrorising” local farmers.
Ronald Shamukuni, MP for the northern Chobe region that is hosting next week’s conferences on African elephants and the illegal wildlife trade, says the mammals are forcing villagers to abandon their farms.
“I am pleading with the [wildlife] minister to find ways to reduce the number of elephants in our area,” Shamukuni said.
“Many fields in my area have been destroyed by elephants,” he said, adding that elephants are knocking down fences, trampling farmers’ crops and scaring residents.
Two other parliamentarians backed Shamukuni’s call.
There are some 200 000 elephants living in Botswana, one of Africa’s top safari destinations.
In January last year, the government outlawed commercial hunting because it was no longer seen as “compatible” with either the country’s commitment to wildlife conservation, or with its bid to strengthen the tourism industry.
Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama says the government is concerned with the number of human-wildlife conflict incidents, with over 6 100 cases reported last year.
Two major conferences focusing on the African elephant and the illegal wildlife trade will be held in the northern town of Kasane, a tourist hub located at the entrance to Chobe National Park, near the borders with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Over 30 heads of state are expected for the talks, where they will review their progress since the first African Elephant Summit in December 2013.