Libreville, Gabon (Gabonactu.com)—“Our record is outstanding; we are far ahead of the rest of Africa.” ??The Botswana Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Tshekedi Khama, was quick to praise the success of his country in the fight against poaching when Botswana hosted this week in Kasane two world conferences on trafficking of the species protected. During the civil war in Angola (1975–2002), the elephants had crossed Namibia to seek refuge in Botswana.
This landlocked country in Southern Africa is now the African country that has the largest number of elephants on the continent, about 130,000. A stable level since 2010, but that has tripled in three decades as the population of this iconic mammal fell 15% in nearly a decade in Africa. Only fifty elephants were poached in Botswana last year according to authorities.
What lessons this country can he give to his neighbors?
Defend a national cause
“Botswana has taken a deliberate decision, with the support of our president, to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Our goal is to inform the poachers that our country is not a place where they can case,” recalls Tshekedi Khama. This political will at the highest level is often lacking in other countries. Classified as middle-income thanks to its diamond mines, Botswana also has the means of its ambition. The budget allocated to anti-poaching has increased over the past two years despite a decline in the price of the precious stone. With the victory of his party (BDP) to the October elections, President Ian Khama, brother of the Minister, may continue this policy during his second term.
Make effective anti-poaching units
The rangers in national parks are not the only ones to be mobilized against traffickers. The army, police, and intelligence services have also been employed. According to authorities, a dozen arrests were made ??last year during targeted operations or roadblocks. “The anti-poaching units are reactive,” confirmed Kelly Landen, co-founder of the association, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), based in Kasane. “They come to us once a month to find out in which areas are concentrated herds.” In addition to working with its neighbors to share information, the African state regularly uses foreign experts to increase its skills. Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, according to Transparency International, which prevents poachers from having useful links within the authorities.
Severely punish poachers
“If we find you with poached ivory, you incur to ten years in prison, and the study of a bill is underway to further increase the sanctions,” says Charles Mojalemotho, responsible for national parks Botswana. The government also supports the controversial policy of “shoot to kill” the forces of order: “An effective deterrent,” according to the Minister of Wildlife. “If you’re in the bush and you are found with a gun, we will not take any risks with our security,” summarizes Charles Mojalemotho, without wanting to go into more detail.
Building on safari tourism revenue
“The land of giants.” This is the slogan of Botswana tourism posters in the background with the “Big Five,” the five African animals most symbolic, including the elephant. They are all present in the country. Tourism safaris, mainly high-end, rank second of the economic sector (12% of GDP) after the diamond industry. “The math is simple. If you have more animals there will be more tourists, thus more revenue for the country,” summed up Minister Tshekedi Khama. “It’s also true that these benefits accrue to all of Botswana,” said Sox, a guide working in the Chobe Park. “Jobs are created for locals through tourism, although a large part of the profits remain in the hands of a few large operators,” he says.
Convince local communities
“If the villagers living near elephants do not see the benefits of protecting these animals, they may turn against them, including taking up poaching,” admits Charles Mojalemotho. Half of Botswana still lives below the poverty line. A hundred associations were created in communities across the country to develop projects funded by money from tourism.
If the authorities welcomed a success, it is difficult to judge the positive impact due to the disparity of initiatives. Local authorities are against by more and more complaints from the people whose crops are damaged by the constant comings and goings of many elephants. With the sharp increase in population in Africa, what cohabitation is possible in the future on the mainland between humans and elephants? Botswana has this time not yet found the best recipe.