For a moment last weekend, Lekhubu Island situated in the Makgadikgadi area turned into one of the busiest airports in Africa. Over 60 planes departed and landed at the island in matter of minutes as part of the Race for Rhino air navigation challenge. The race saw 64 planes taking part in the two-day challenge, whose sole intention was to raise awareness and funds for rhino conservation. Rhino species are the most endangered in the world with poachers killing them for their horns. They are now facing extinction because of this, hence the need to conserve them. Botswana has become a good haven for the species due to the tough anti-poaching stance. The country will receive 100 white rhinos from South Africa for safe keeping some time this year.
The Race for Rhino Botswana, which was on its second year, is said to have grown this year. Race organiser Chris Briers said Botswana is the only country that has taken a stand to seriously fight for conservation hence the arrival of 100 rhinos in to the country. Briers said he is happy that this year’s Race for Rhino was able to pull together more equally concerned people to support the cause. He is concerned that a lot of money is being availed in some countries for the protection of rhinos yet a little is done to this effect. He said since Botswana has shown commitment to this he believes the 100 rhinos coming to the country will be safe. The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama then reaffirmed the government’s tough shoot-to-kill stance against poaching. Khama said the government of Botswana is committed to conservation and will not afford to lose any species to poachers.
“It is one thing to talk about conservation but the other to do it. However, we as Botswana are doing much better in terms of wildlife conservation. We are serious about conservation and we will not afford to lose even one rhino,” said Khama. He promised that the 100 rhinos that are coming will be well taken care of to preserve the species. Khama explained that 41 percent of land in Botswana is reserved for wildlife management and all law enforcement agencies have been directed to guard against poaching. Some companies in the country have also shown a great interest in helping in the wildlife conservation drive. Debswana pledged P250 000 to be used for the expected rhinos.
The company has a game park in Orapa where the general manager of Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines Alan Breen said they have 20 species of animals including 59 white rhinos. Plans are afoot to expand the game park. He said this will not only open a gate way into the Makgadikgadi but it will leave a legacy for the people of Boteti. “This is in line with the slogan Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow,” he said. The Race for Rhino air navigation challenge was hosted by Botswana Tourism in partnership with Gaing-O Community Trust and the Matsieng Flying Club. The race will continue next year.