By Innocent Tshukudu for The Voice
Botswana has successfully lobbied the United Nations Convention on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Wildlife (CITES) not to ban trophy hunting in the country.
Together with other countries in the SADC region with support from the European Union, Botswana voted against the ban, which would have been introduced if member states voted to move elephants from Appendix II to Appendix I of the CITES regulations because animals listed in Appendix I are classified as most threatened and cannot be hunted to safeguard the species from extinction.
On Friday last week, an African country, Burkina Faso, tabled a motion calling for the transfer of all African elephants currently on Appendix II to Appendix I, but lost by 44 votes to 59 against the motion and 13 abstain. Congo, Botswana, EU, Tanzania, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Japan, Rwanda, Zambia, Namibia, Indonesia, Eritrea, Uganda and Malawi voted against the motion.
Prior to the COP19 meeting, Botswana and other countries within the SADC region had campaigned vigorously against the ban, which they said would spell the doom of communities that coexist with these giants and survive on tourism.
The minister responsible for tourism and the environment, Phildah Kereng, skipped parliament last week to strike a pact with other SADC member states in pressuring other CITES member states to make conservation in Botswana more than just about wildlife but also human life and that it has been through indigenous knowledge and practices to manage wildlife that the country has managed to conserve a large elephant population.
“Rural people depend on these natural resources for their livelihoods; having access to these resources and using your knowledge to manage them is important,” Kereng explained during a press conference in Panama, just two days before the presentation of the motion.
“People are not calling for the total removal of elephants, they are calling for benefits through hunting quotas. Our communities generate income through CBNRM projects, acquire skills, develop alternative income projects and this improves quality of life, provide jobs, give people a voice and become a united force for conservation, organize to fight against human conflict -wildlife and enhance co-existence, fight poaching and prevent wildlife crime,” Kereng said.
The press conference was hosted by the Southern African Community Leaders Network to mobilize parties and other participants for a side event, which according to Botswana representatives at the event, was ultimately held under the theme Respecting Rural Communities and their livelihoods.
The discussions revolved around the COP 19 document presented by Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and another presented by Botswana, Cambodia, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe concerning wildlife conservation and management policies.
Speakers included Zimbabwe’s Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Ndlovu, Minister Kereng, President of the Southern African Community Leaders Network, Rodgers Lubilo, and the director of the Namibian Association of the CBNRM support organization, Maxi Pia Louis, among others
Meanwhile, the United States of America tabled a proposal this week to limit imports of game-hunted African elephant trophies and trade in live animals. However, the proposal also indicated that it covered imports from countries that cannot demonstrate annually that their elephant population is not declining.
Speaking to the CITES Agenda at home, Maun professor Joseph Mbaiwa explained that globally hunting is an emotional issue, one that can stir intense feelings, some religious, some commercial, while some look at it from the point of view of human rights.
“You know we have animal rights groups, who are simply saying that hunting shouldn’t be allowed at all due to the decline in the population of wildlife in general, so they strike a deal with those who say that for religious reasons there shouldn’t be hunting. The other thing you need to consider is that most anti-hunting groups are in developed countries that don’t have wildlife in their area. Their animals have been wiped out, for example in the UK and America,” Mbaiwa said in an interview this week.
As for African countries siding with the West against Southern African countries, Mbaiwa noted that “in Southern Africa, animal populations such as elephants have been constant for years, especially in Botswana, which shows that our elephant numbers are not declining.
My point of view therefore is that we hunt elephants because ours is a controlled and selective hunt, it is well managed and we take a census of the population of our animals, we give quotas based on the number and on some areas, moreover, we do not hunt waiting animals we hunt older males, our hunters are accompanied by wildlife rangers when they go hunting to ensure things are done accordingly.
Mbaiwa added that hunting is a matter of land, so in Botswana it is not practiced in prime tourist areas such as the Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta, which are reserved for photographic tourism, but is practiced in marginal areas.
Meanwhile, in the UK, former President Ian Khama has added his voice to the fury
‘Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting’, supporting his fight to stop hunters bringing their ‘sick souvenirs’ back to Britain.
In a video that was widely shared on social media after it was first published on digital platform UK Mirror Newspaper, Khama urged UK MPs to finally ban trophy hunting in the deciding vote when Tory MP Henry Smith he will introduce his private member’s bill later this month.
Khama’s request comes as MPs prepare for a Commons vote on the measure, scheduled for Nov. 25.
This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism Program, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in Africa and bring more African voices into the international conservation debate. The written articles of the Mozambican and Angolan cohorts are translated from the Portuguese. The transmitted stories remain in the original language.
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