Esther Mmolai, The Botswana Daily News
The elephant summit scheduled for early next month will assist government to refine its decision on the hunting ban, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Mr Kitso Mokaila has said.
Addressing Ngamiland community trusts in Maun April 24, the minister expressed optimism that a final decision on the ban would be announced soon.
He said the May 7 summit, expected to be graced by six heads of state whose countries had high elephant populations, would discuss off-loading the species onto other neighbouring countries.
Regarding the lifting of the ban, Mr Mokaila noted that there had been an outcry by foreign investors who used Botswana’s wildlife resource to enrich themselves and labeled the recommendation a ‘blood law’ in an effort to tarnish “our good name and stop tourists from appreciating our tourism”.
The minister urged community trusts to help dispel the negative perceptions as government wanted to ensure Batswana were at the forefront of tourism operations.
Mr Mokaila said the issue of hunting and its benefits should not be about individuals but communities.
He stressed the need to place people and not wildlife at the centre of Botswana tourism marketing strategies.
Human/wildlife conflict, he said should not be an issue if all benefited from tourism.
Mr Mokaila said the ministry planned to stop compensation for human/wildlife conflict victims as communities were capable of coming up with solutions for addressing it.
He advised them to work closely with the ministry which could assist with funding enterprises geared at reducing the effects of human/wildlife conflict.
Last year, a committee appointed by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi embarked on a massive consultation drive following concerns about the increasing elephant population which was impacting negatively on communities.
Mr Mokaila said if government revoked the ban, which was introduced in 2014, hunting would be controlled.
He implored trusts to be hands on in order to generate more income and create jobs citing Lake Ngami Conservation Trust which had expanded to charcoal production.
Mr Mokaila said communities should own lodges adding that Botswana Tourism Organisation and other departments could assist in that regard.
“This is our country. It is our right to want it and claim it. Let us work together to achieve that,” he said.
Trusts were also encouraged to diversify tourism products by venturing into the likes of cultural tourism, selling veld products and game farming. Mr Mokaila said game farming was profitable in countries such as South Africa saying a trust once sold a buffalo for R18 million.