Shocking and disturbing news were revealed this week that at least 26 elephants were killed and their faces hacked off to remove their tusks at Chobe National Park. The disturbing news come at time when stringiest measures are being put in place to curb the rate of poaching, including the stance adopted to shoot and kill the poachers without any apprehension. The latest development which supposedly took place within sight of a safari lodge and within an area protected by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is disturbing moreso that Botswana has been gaining a reputation as a good haven for wildlife. In recent years the government has increased measures to curb poaching by among others introducing several units within the ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism with others tasked with intelligence within the department of wildlife.
Though the battle against poachers is very complex in many ways, it would seem there is a long way to go. This week BBC reported that Botswana has more elephants than any other African country constituting of 40 percent of the continent’s elephants, with the population standing above 130,000, an estimate given by Great Elephant Census. The census reportedly paints a gloomy picture saying in seven years, 30 percent of Africa’s elephants have disappeared and predicts that at the current rate of decline, half of the continent’s elephant species would be gone in nine years.
The picture painted by census that half of the continent’s elephants would be gone soon calls for urgent measures to be taken to protect the species. Even as harsh as it sometimes seems, Minister Tshekedi Khama stand against poachers seems the best deterrent at times.
The massacre of elephants as reported would not easily recur if poachers are aware that Government’s stand is not just a threat but a reality. We know that suspects should be given a fair and reasonable judicial process before they could be punished. They should as a priority be arrested first before any individual could take the law into their hands to punish them. We know that this harsh step – shoot-to-kill policy – only stands to promote extra-judicial killings. Trigger happy state agents are bound to go over board and pull the trigger at the lightest of excuses. It is this issue that has created tension between Botswana and her neighbour Namibia. They feel Botswana has been unfair to Namibians that were killed when found poaching. Yet it is not easy to deter well-armed and sophisticated poachers who boost of all latest gadgets and technologies to find their way in the maze of swamps and heavy bushes of Chobe.
They are simply armed to kill. To anti-poaching unit the choice is often simple – shoot and survive or hold your gun and die. Poachers are equally merciless against anyone who could stand on their way. They go after wildlife and anyone who stands on their way. And hence Minister Tshekedi Khama’s stance could be excused even as harsh as it is. Otherwise he would soon find himself overseeing a sector where his anti-poaching troops are killed at will and the wildlife is poached at will. With that Botswana would lose out on its precious wildlife species and there would be no reason for tourists to come from all corners of the world to see the beauty of the country and its animals. Our wildlife should be protected as best as possible but human should be safeguarded as the first option except when one has to defend himself.