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Trophy hunting to end in Botswana

Monday 29th October 2012

Trophy hunting to end in Botswana

It was announced today that President Khama will stop all hunting in Botswana (citizen and tourist trophy hunting) in 2014. This comes on the heels of a lion hunting moratorium in 2008. The reasons behind the decision are the great loss of wildlife in the country in recent years, an increase in elephant poaching, and a lack of continued belief that trophy hunting is an overall component of wildlife conservation. This will be a blow to the efforts of the trophy hunting operators who have mounted a very strong campaign in the media and with their lobbyists (some of whom are in official positions) to keep trophy hunting alive. In fact, one newspaper at least, the Ngami Times, has come out with an endless stream of articles and editorials touting the great benefit of trophy hunting based on nothing more than false premises by the trophy hunting community. The trophy hunters did get a one-year reprieve (the ban was expected this year) to wrap up their operations with their last hunting season in 2013.

It is now to be hoped that Botswana will also take a careful look at photographic tourism to determine whether those profits benefit the communities and the Batswana equitably.

It is very important to recognize that with this move, Botswana has broken ranks with the other southern African countries which continue to stubbornly promote trophy hunting as contributing to wildlife conservation and alleviating rural poverty despite all information to the contrary. It could be that Zambia might place a moratorium on hunting, it is perhaps already too late for Zimbabwe where trophy hunting continues unabated to the virtual destruction of wildlife, and meanwhile Namibia continues to avidly promote hunting. South African hunting largely involves ranched species, but in Tanzania 94% of the reason why hunters are not able to “collect” their desired trophies like lions is due to overhunting in the past.

So well done Botswana to recognize that wildlife is a national heritage that does not belong on the walls of overseas trophy rooms to the benefit of foreign operators.

Picture credit – King Juan Carlos hunting in Botswana – elephantjournal.com

Posted by Pieter Kat at 12:52

Christine Francis
29th October 2012 at 18:43

I hope this will make a trophy illegal.


Pieter Kat
29th October 2012 at 21:04

Hi Christine. Thanks for your contribution.

We must understand this move in a historical context. After Kenya stopped trophy hunting in 1977, many of the operators moved south to Botswana. CITES records indicate that in the late 1970’s Botswana was the leading destination for lion trophy hunting. By 1982 Botswana was overtaken by Tanzania and Zimbabwe but remained the third-largest lion trophy exporter 1990-1994. Huge expanses of Botswana’s land were set aside for trophy hunting, and the operators took great advantage of such allotments where they were a law unto themselves. By 1995, a new era came to Botswana – the Government decided on lease areas that were either private or community based multipurpose use. Lion hunting numbers dropped significantly and a moratorium was put in place 2001/2 until 2005 followed by another moratorium in 2008 until the present.

The first moratorium was put in place because Botswana (and then Vice President Ian Khama) was convinced that lions were being decimated by problem animal control measures at the hands of farmers. It was the farmers that protested for a total ban on lion hunting – why should we stop shooting lions when the rich tourists are still allowed to do so? The trophy hunting operators immediately brought out some big guns in protest. Using contacts with the then President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, Steven Chancellor (a coal magnate and avid trophy hunter) asked his friends George Bush snr, Dan Quayle (the eminently forgettable former US Vice President) and General Norman Schwarzkopf (aka Stormin’ Norman in the first Iraq war) to write a letter of protest to the moratorium. Festus kept the moratorium in place until 2005 and then it was revoked. When I called the Director of Wildlife to give an explanation he said “because there is no reason to maintain it”. That Director of Wildlife, his successor, and another successor are now gone. There is no effective or constructive leadership in the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

The second moratorium came in place soon after Khama was elected President. This moratorium was also vehemently opposed by the trophy hunters, but this time they got nowhere. Their tired arguments about benefits to the country and communities were wearing thin and shown for what they were – hot air. Meanwhile, other species like leopards were also taken off the quota, and there were rumblings about a total stop to trophy hunting. The hunters’ arguments were not helped by a report in 2010 that wildlife in the Okavango region, Botswana’s premier wildlife tourism destination, had declined by 60% or more since the last surveys in the late 1990s.

Despite last-ditch politicking including numbers of highly biased articles and editorials published by the openly supportive Ngami Times newspaper based in Maun, the hunters lost. They were also outbid for concessions by photographic tourism organizations. They were only able to gain one more season (2013) before the stop comes into effect.

What did they do wrong? They thought with friends in high places (and allegedly some in Government and the Wildlife Department paid to dance to their tunes) they could convince the Botswana Government that trophy hunting contributed to conservation and communities living with wildlife. Their arrogant assumption was that Botswana would toe the hunter propaganda line and accept their tried and tested means of ensuring hunting rights in other African countries. Botswana did not swallow their flimflam and took a cold hard look at the facts. Hunting only benefits the operators at the expense of a country’s national resources. Hunting does not benefit communities. Hunting profits are amassed overseas and therefore escape country taxes. Hunting can only flourish in countries where governments have collapsed or where corruption reigns.

Will trophy hunting operators take a lesson from this? My prediction is no. As with Kenya in 1977 and Botswana in 2014 they will now look for other pastures that will still receive the “hunting = conservation” message. They will continue to bribe those in positions of power to support their business as that has worked so well in the past. But the clock is ticking as more and more African people are raising their well-founded objections.


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