The Botswana government is in advanced legal process to ban the hunting of wildlife in favour of photographic safari, a Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism spokesperson revealed at a workshop at Yarona Country Lodge early this week.
Archibald Ngakayagae says they will be using recent research findings by wildlife conservationist, Dr Mike Chase, that shows that some wildlife species have dwindled by as high as 90 percent due to hunting, poaching and veldt fires over the last decade. The policy to promote photographic safari against hunting is now advanced, Ngakayagae says, adding that in future they will not be issuing any hunting quotas. Lion hunting in Botswana was suspended in 2007, to allow the cats’ population to swell. The Wildlife Department has been worried by the dwindling number of lions in places like the Khutse Game Reserve, Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) and the Kgalagadi Trans-Frontier Park, where conflict between humans and predators is on the rise. In the Kgatleng District the hunting of wildlife of all kinds has remained suspended since 1981, according to Molepolole-based regional wildlife officer, Dorothy Thite.
The campaign to move towards photographic safari is promoted by operators who run photographic safaris in the Okavango Delta and Kasane regions, but the campaign has divided the wildlife conservationists in Botswana, some of whom argue that hunting quotas issued to the communities that live near wildlife management areas, help empower and develop local communities. Research findings unveiled a few weeks ago by Chase, reveal that the Okavango Delta has suffered “catastrophic” species loss over the past 15 years. The study found that 11 species have declined by 61 percent since a 1996 survey in the Ngamiland district. Ostrich numbers declined by 95 percent, while 90 percent of wildebeest were also wiped out, along with 84 percent of antelope tsessebe, 81 percent of warthogs and kudus, and nearly two-thirds of giraffes.
“The numbers of wildebeest have fallen below the minimum of 500 breeding pairs to be sustainable. They are on the verge of local extinction,” he said.