Bush meat hunt­ing threat­ens Oka­vango Delta tourism in Botswana

The New Age (Free State) - - NORTH WEST NEWS - SALLY DOWL­ING Sally Dowl­ing at­tached to Con­ser­va­tion Ac­tion Trust

IL­LE­GAL bush meat hunt­ing poses a threat to the Oka­vango Delta’s tourism in­dus­try in Botswana.

Al­though Botswana is not nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with high lev­els of poach­ing, re­port found that il­le­gal bush meat hunt­ing is oc­cur­ring at a large scale in the Delta. The large quan­ti­ties of bush meat re­ported by some hunters sug­gest the ex­is­tence of an or­gan­ised com­mer­cial el­e­ment, with ca­pac­ity to har­vest, trans­port and dis­pose of sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes.

The re­port es­ti­mated that there are about 1 800 il­le­gal hunters who are har­vest­ing 320kg of bush meat an­nu­ally. It fur­ther raises con­cerns that the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of the bush meat trade could be the first step to­wards a more or­gan­ised wildlife crime syn­di­cate that tar­gets lions, rhi­nos and ele­phants.

The re­port says that hu­mans are the fourth most prom­i­nent preda­tors in the delta and that cu­mu­la­tive har­vest­ing by hu­mans and other preda­tors likely ex­ceeds the in­her­ent pop­u­la­tion growth rate of sev­eral species of un­gu­lates in the delta.

Wildlife pop­u­la­tions and tourism will be un­der threat be­cause of that cause.

Great Plains and National Ge­o­graphic Explore CEO Der­reck Jou­bert said bush meat in small quan­ti­ties had far-reach­ing ef­fects.

“When poach­ers en­ter our national parks and re­serves specif­i­cally for meat they of­ten tar­get preda­tors sim­ply be­cause it is eas­ier and less danger­ous to op­er­ate in a preda­tor-free hunt­ing area,” Jou­bert said.

He said the sa­vanna ecosys­tem tourism de­pends on lions, ele­phants and rhi­nos. When the preda­tors dis­ap­pear, the magic of an African sa­fari wanes. And an­other rev­enue in­dus­try (tourism) de­clines, throw­ing more peo­ple out of work and into the bush meat trade.

Kai Collins, Wilder­ness Sa­faris Group con­ser­va­tion man­ager, said the re­port in­di­cated that com­pe­ti­tion be­tween hu­mans and other api­cal preda­tors for lim­ited prey re­duces the ecosys­tem’s car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity for large car­ni­vores.

“The com­bi­na­tion of the il­le­gal bush meat hunt­ing off­take with nat­u­ral preda­tors ap­pears to be un­sus­tain­able and likely to cause pop­u­la­tion de­clines in cer­tain ar­eas and for cer­tain species.”

With wildlife crit­i­cal to high-value tourism in the area the knock- on ef­fect that this could have on the tourism in­dus­try in the re­gion is pal­pa­ble.

Op­er­a­tions direc­tor for Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Botswana Charl Baden­horst said al­though the Oka­vango Delta re­mains one of the most pris­tine wilder­nesses in the world, the bush meat trade if left un­curbed will be a se­ri­ous threat.

The tourism in­dus­try in Botswana pro­vides al­ter­na­tive liveli­hoods for com­mu­ni­ties with a large fo­cus on eco­tourism-re­lated em­ploy­ment op­tions.

These large com­mer­cial en­ter­prises in Botswana are re­spon­si­ble for hir­ing staff from com­mu­ni­ties and also sup­port­ing these com­mu­ni­ties in the form of levies, roy­al­ties, or leases and wildlife based tourism has played a vi­tal part of the coun­try’s growth over the last 30 years, cre­at­ing at least 70 000 jobs and con­tribut­ing nearly 10% of Botswana’s GDP.

The re­port sug­gested that, too fre­quently the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of wildlife-based tourism did not reach im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties near or within pro­tected ar­eas.

Baden­horst said one of the ways in which sanc­tu­ary re­treats was help­ing com­bat hunt­ing was by cre­at­ing aware­ness through education on the im­pact bush meat hunt­ing had on the tourism po­ten­tial of their own ar­eas.

“While we are com­mit­ted to this, the own­er­ship and re­spon­si­bil­ity falls upon the de­ci­sion mak­ers within the com­mu­ni­ties, mak­ing it im­por­tant to reach these peo­ple.

“We’ve been lucky with one of the com­mu­ni­ties we work closely with, with one com­mu­nity leader say­ing, ‘those an­i­mals are our di­a­monds’, mean­ing they need to be pre­served in or­der to at­tract tourism,” Baden­horst said.

He said this type of aware­ness needed to be com­pellingly and ur­gently fos­tered even more through part­ner­ship with com­mu­ni­ties, stake­holder, tourism op­er­a­tors and the govern­ment at all lev­els for the bush meat trade to be curbed ef­fec­tively in the long run.


UN­DER THREAT: Work linked to tourism has pro­vided 70 000 jobs for lo­cals in Botswana and if the wildlife dis­ap­pears to poach­ers, so do the jobs.

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