An increase in poaching activities has given rise to the mushrooming of lively bush meat trade in the northern parts of this country, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had been told.
Making submissions for his ministry before the parliamentary committee on Friday, the permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Elias Magosi, said though poaching is generally a challenge, poaching for bush meat trade is rising and becoming problematic especially in places where there is little anti-poaching unit footprints.
According to Magosi, a recent survey conducted by a donor organisation has revealed that in the Okavango region villages have poachers who specialise in bush meat trade. These self-appointed poachers are, according to Magosi, conducting business with ease as communities are in fact happy for their services. “The communities are happy for the supply and the clientele is growing,” he said.
In an effort to address this new trend Magosi told the PAC that his ministry was working on ways to convert poachers into anti-poaching personnel.
Asked whether his ministry did not find it necessary to investigate if this new trend could be influenced by the recent suspension of hunting by government, Magosi dismissed any links between the two. He, however, alluded to the fact that other than relying on research by non-governmental organisations, his ministry was limited and weak to do its own research.
Poaching continues to be a challenge in the northern parts of Botswana with the recent surge in elephant and rhinoceros killings making it worse. Media reports indicate that just this week three suspected poachers were shot dead in the Okavango area.
The minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has however in the past repeatedly declared that Botswana will adopt a shoot-to-kill policy to put an end to poaching.
According to recent media reports the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) patrol team deployed in the Kwando area shot and killed three poachers who were in possession of elephant tusks on May 15.
A statement from BDF, it was exercising its mission of defending Botswana's territorial integrity and national interests. The matter had since been handed over to Botswana Police Service for conclusion.
The Director of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi also told the PAC on Friday that poaching was one of the challenges that local intelligence community was grappling with. He indicated that poaching incidences were even made worse by the fact that locals were collaborating with foreigners in the trade. “Because our anti-poaching units are very efficient, poaching syndicates mostly operate from outside the country. We would not be intimidated though, we are collaborating with our counterparts to follow and arrest these gangsters,” said Kgosi.
Though he confirmed that poaching was not on the decrease despite the involvement of the anti-poaching unit, Kgosi promised the PAC that though it would not be easy, the DIS and other local security organs will fight poaching and eventually win.