ANTI-HUNTING IDIOCY: Botswana’s Impending Wildlife Disaster

KEVIN ROBERTSON- I’m concerned about recent developments here in southern Africa. I write this because the pending closure (at the end of 2013) of all sport hunting on public land and Controlled Hunting Areas in Botswana is seriously bad news. What makes this situation so ridiculous is the reason behind this draconian governmental decision.

To quote from a press statement issued by the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism dated November 29, 2012, “The decision to impose this moratorium on hunting was made in the context of a growing concern about a sharp decline in the populations of most of the wildlife species that have been subject to licensed hunting.”

In a nutshell, sport hunting is being blamed as the root cause of the dramatic decline in numbers of both predators and the various and diverse antelope species that occur naturally in northern Botswana and the Okavango Delta. This is ridiculous.

Many theories are being bandied about as to the reason for the alarming decline in Botswana’s antelope numbers (and consequently the predators that prey upon them), with prolonged drought and a reduction in water flow into the swamps being the most prominent. Yet to all of us who love Africa and its wildlife, the real cause is blatantly obvious despite the fact that everyone seems to be pussyfooting around it.

Nobody seems to have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say what really needs to be said —so I will.  The truth is simply this: Botswana has too many elephants. Way too many, in fact, and it is their influence on the environment that is impacting all the other species.

Available on the internet is a fascinating article by David Cumming and Brian Jones of the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature). The article is entitled “Elephants in Southern Africa: management issues and options.” ( Published in 2005, it is now somewhat dated; nonetheless, it makes for fascinating reading. The elephant population figures it provides are eye-openers.

According to the article, southern Africa’s elephant populations had collapsed by the 1880s, primarily due to overhunting. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts since that time, begun in the colonial era and then continued in a fashion by the game departments of the various newly independent southern African countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa), elephant numbers have increased dramatically. From only a few thousand in the late 1800s, southern Africa’s combined elephant population has increased to somewhere in the region of 300,000 today.

Botswana currently has the largest elephant population. In the early 1960s there were less than 10,000 pachyderms in this landlocked and generally dry country. Since that time their numbers have increased steadily by about 5 to 6 percent annually. By 1990 there were 50,000 elephants in the wetter, northern parts of the country and in the following year the Botswana Department of Wildlife Conservation and National Parks drew up a draft elephant management policy. In that year (1991), it was established that the then-current elephant population of 55,000 was the maximum the country could sustain without the eventual loss of habitat so essential for species biodiversity.

Unfortunately, the policy was never adopted or implemented even though it made the recommendation that management of elephant numbers was necessary because of their impact on habitat. Instead, Botswana’s elephant numbers continued to increase steadily and exponentially. By 1995 the population had increased to 80,000. By 2002 some estimates said it was 120,000; by 2005, 140,000; and heaven only knows what it is today. There is much speculation.

When one realizes that 55,000 was the maximum figure that would ensure environmental preservation, it should be blatantly obvious where the problem so conveniently blamed on sport hunting actually lies.

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