By Arnold Letsholo, The Sunday Standard
To bolster the efforts of rangers protecting Botswana’s wildlife animals from poaching, the United States Embassy in Botswana has extended a helping through a donation of equipment to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) this past week.
Handing over the equipment at the Ministry of Environment’s headquarters, US Ambassador to Botswana, Craig Cloud underpinned that the equipment supports activities under the Southern Africa Development Community Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching (LEAP) strategy to ensure consolidation between enforcement agencies.
He said Botswana has a positive reputation for its efforts to protect wildlife, but this cannot be maintained unless the DWNP rangers have the necessary gear to protect themselves and Botswana’s precious wildlife resources.
“Today I am delighted to hand over 400 tents, 400 bed stretchers, 400 gas lamps, 400 gas cookers 250 flash lights, 200 water purifiers, and 100 GPS systems, totaling $356, 000-equivalent to P3.8 million. The funding for this equipment is part of the USG grant to Conservation International (CI) to support Botswana’s anti-poaching work and wild life enforcement in the SADC region at a tune of US$.2 million,” said ambassador Cloud.
The fight against illegal hunting of game dates back to 1988 when the anti-poaching unit was born. By then, explained head of anti poaching Jack Sewagodimo, the government was under pressure due to escalating incidents of cross border poaching and the dangers officers patrolling borders were exposed to.
“Government then picked a handful of officers and I from the wildlife department to undergo intense para-military training under the tutelage of former Botswana Defense Force commander, Lieutenant General Gaolatlhe Galebotswe. During those yester years, few army officers covered the area, which stretches from Kwando to Linyanti, thus the need to beef up manpower. Upon completion, we were armed with Smirnoff guns for self-defense because we were operating in a dicey environment,” he revealed to the media earlier this year. This followed criticism from international conservation pundits.
Police officers he said are closely monitoring the situation at Khutse Game Reserve and once wildlife officers arrest poachers or people in possession of government trophies, police officers then chip in to take over investigations and handling of cases.
On one hand, the Director of Intelligence Security Services has been tasked with the responsibility of Nxai Pan. The wildlife department is the overall overseer in the Kgalagadi area.