Farmers should protect their livestock or crops from predators. PERIOD

SHARE   |   Monday, 13 August 2018   |   By Thomas Dust Nyoni
Tshekedi Khama Tshekedi Khama

Minister Tshekedi Khama, please read and understand the laws of Botswana! Do you think that compensation can be an effective way to reduce villagers’ suffering due to conflict with wildlife? What do you mean by putting their lives in danger because they are already in danger? Machana Shamukuni was right in advising the community to defend their property. Shamukuni has qualifications in Behavioural Ecology and Wildlife Management, and I am not sure if you understand concepts of wildlife.  

Its People First, Wildlife and Tourism last

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I find it disingenuous and hypocrite for Minister Khama to rebuke another minister in public.  Not only does it show lack of integrity and understanding of principles of wildlife management but also demeaning value to people of Botswana.  Section 46, Chapter 38:01 Wildlife Conservation and National Parks elaborates on killing of animals causing damage by declaring: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, the owner or occupier of land, or any agent of such owner or occupier may, subject to the provisions of this Act, kill any animal which caused, is causing or threatens to cause damage to any livestock, crops, water installation or fence on such land.”  Read with Section 47, it shows that Machana acted with the “residue” of the law.

Your statements are regrettable because you don’t know the pain of losing your source of livelihood to these animals, with the compensation so inadequate. You have never been in that scenario because all your life you have been enjoying city life.  I always wondered what competence in wildlife management do you possess or your appointment was to protect your interests. Please be moderate Minister and think of all the people who lost their lives due to cattle.

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Emancipate people from this poverty and stop subjecting them to poverty.  Never try to impress the rich entrepreneurs in Europe at the expense of locals.  Shamukuni besides being a conservationist has seen the wrath of the wildlife animals. People of Chobe are living in terror with their movement curtailed. People lose a lot of property. Government is not innovative enough to channel energy in devising better ways of ensuring that the wildlife creates more jobs, leaving most people in the region wallowing in poverty.

In fact, these people are tolerant, and don’t need this disrespect from you. Instead of creating another military in the department you should channel your energy into better resolving the human wildlife conflict. A rouge animal that destroys an impoverished farmer’s crops essentially destroys their livelihood, so it is not surprising that such conflict can inspire outrage and negative views of conservation efforts. Crop-raiding leads to negative perceptions of elephants by local communities, which can strongly undermine conservation efforts. Crop-raiding in particular has direct impact on human livelihoods, through the destruction of agricultural crops and nearby properties as well as injuries to people and in some instances, death. Many people in Chobe have lost their lives to elephants. 

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One of the remedial steps is to revisit the large scale chili-pepper programme that is now defunct. The programme as before will empower farmers to keep elephants at a safe distance from their farms and homes. Some African villagers have turned to two unlikely, all-natural solutions: bees and hot peppers. Elephants dislike the chemical capsaicin found in chili peppers, prompting farmers to smother their fences with a mixture of oil and chili peppers. It is my considered opinion that Conservation objectives in this highly populated zone therefore need to be reinforced by creating opportunities for the local communities, thereby reducing human-elephant conflict while allowing sustainable use of and access to natural resources.  Honorable Minister please revamp the research division of the department and allow them to provide scientific solutions to these problems such as wildlife corridors. These corridors, areas of preserved native habitat in human dominated regions, provide wildlife with a safe pathway as they travel between larger areas of intact habitat.

By placing corridors away from potential conflict hotspots, such as farms or ranches, animals can be steered out of harm’s way and instances of human-wildlife conflict can be proactively avoided. Using GPS tracking collars and GIS mapping software, researchers can identify hot spots where human-wildlife conflict is likely to occur. These hotspots often coincide with developed regions at the edge of national parks, but the data from tracked animals can reveal individual movement patterns that may be unexpected. Identifying conflict hot spots helps to pinpoint PAC manpower and funding to proactively address the issue of human-wildlife conflict. Visit records from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks because a project was initiated to save Kaudwane communities from marauding lions. Such similar concepts could be applied to the elephants.

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The first step is to respect Wildlife biologists in the department and allow them to be imaginative and creative. You will thank me later. Please empower those people with PAC skills (community PAC) and make them special game scouts. Attempts to reduce the conflict by forming local elephant control teams and enclosing the affected village with manageable migratory routes should be piloted in the hotspots regions. It’s very easy to transform these people into conservationists if you engage them, involve them in mitigating human wildlife conflict. Community wildlife conservation programmes also have the potential to help mitigate conflict and involve locals in addressing the problem with a wider understanding and thoughtfulness. It’s an established truism Mr Minister that humans and wildlife have conflicting existences, and to a certain extent monetary incentives can ameliorate these relations or modify behaviour.  Such incentives include the release of adequate funds by the local NGOs and Wildlife department for the purchase of material and equipment for scaring away elephants such as searchlights, torches, chili powder, oil for creating flaming torches, fireworks, etc. Now think hard Mr Minister; with these innovative ideas you will be creating jobs for Batswana.   Most importantly elephant conservation should be linked to local people’s welfare. If local people are not included in elephant conservation programmes in their areas, they will not care about the survival of the specie.

Mr Minister, I am aware that the survival of elephants is critical from an ecological point of view as elephants play an important role in maintaining the balance in the delicate ecosystem of the northern Botswana. BUT number one RULE or PRINCIPLE “Understanding socio-economic status, legitimate concerns, aspirations and motivations of the local human community is crucial to the formulation of policies for mitigating human-elephant conflict.    



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