After months of passionate appeals to the British government to discontinue its plans to introduce the Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill, the protest voice of a Botswana Chieftainess who represents a wildlife-rich community, together with those of SADC hunting communities, have at last been listened to.
The David versus Goliath debate for and against the trophy hunting imports ban ended this week when ‘Goliath’ - the British Government’s decision-makers - scrapped the Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill that was due for another reading in Parliament on Friday this week.
“Government sources said it (the Bill) had been scrapped, and that manifesto commitments, including the trophy hunting import ban, would no longer take place in this parliament,” said British newspaper The Guardian this week.
Coincidentally, this week Chieftainess Rebecca Banika, who represents Botswana’s elephant over-populated Chobe District at the House of Chiefs that advises Parliament, had again fired another warning shot, adding to the many powerful arguments for hunting that she has continued to make over the last two years, warning the British Government and the international community to discontinue any actions to restrict or ban international hunting.
“If the international community (including the British government) continues to make calls to ban international hunting, my community will suffer a lot because we don’t have any other income besides money from international hunting,” said Chieftainess Banika. “My community will suffer starvation because the meat that they freely get from the carcass of hunted wildlife will stop. If the ban on international hunting happens, the community will revert to poaching because the ban would remove ownership and direct benefits from international hunting. Therefore, we are still urging the international community to listen to the plight of the communities living with the wild animals as they have better knowledge of how to conserve their wildlife than any other person outside Africa.”
One of the strongest arguments that Chieftainess Banika had continued to make since learning about the British government’s move to impose the Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill was that “if they continue to ignore the importance of international hunting to wildlife conservation and socio-economic development in Africa, then they should be blamed for contributing to human starvation and wildlife and the habitat conservation crisis in African hunting communities such as the Chobe District’s Paleka Community”.
Incidentally, the conflict in Ukraine has already put the spotlight on Western superpowers’ worldwide record for treating people from different continents equally when addressing humanitarian issues at different levels, including how international hunting bans compromise human welfare on the African continent.
The Western animal rights groups’ fundraising industry is behind the continued lobbying for the ban on international hunting in Africa, threatening wildlife conservation and the socio-economic wellbeing of African hunting communities such as those in the wildlife-rich Chobe District of Botswana.
Meanwhile, Chieftainess Banika, who couldn’t keep quiet as international hunting benefits to her community, together with other African hunting communities ,were going to be severely impacted by the British Government’s Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill, broke into celebration this week upon learning that the British government’s decision-makers had scrapped the Bill.
“Hallelujah, we are so happy that my community, along with other African hunting communities, will continue to directly benefit from co-existence with wildlife through international hunting,” she said.
“The British government’s attempt to introduce the Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill was one of the biggest challenges that we were facing here in wildlife-rich northern Botswana. From international hunting proceeds, at least we can continue conserving wildlife and its habitat, and also create employment. We also benefit from protein-boosting wildlife meat.”
Chieftainess Banika’s Paleka hunting community this year alone earned over half-a-million US dollars (US$533 370.00) from wildlife that will be hunted, starting the first week of April 2022.
Apart from being used to conserve wildlife and its habitat, revenue from international hunting also creates employment for local people who get employed as game rangers.
“Last year, some youths were asked to apply for hunting revenue scholarships,” said Chieftainess Banika.
“As I speak, the selection process has been concluded, and those who succeeded have been sent to Maun for training in hotel and catering, professional hunting licences, bookkeeping and accounts, etc. Our main target is to train and empower the youth with the relevant knowledge so that they automatically become the owners of the fauna and flora species, and therefore get motivated to conserve wildlife and its habitat.”
The Paleka hunting community’s continued efforts to invest in wildlife conservation includes the recently advertised posts for escort guides.
“The successful candidates will be employed and help with monitoring the hunting operations in our community. This is part of our ongoing efforts to conserve wildlife in our area, working in collaboration with the Botswana Department of Parks and Wildlife officers,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Wildlife Producers Association, Isaac Theophilus, confirmed that throughout Botswana, international hunting revenue continues to be used to support wildlife and habitat conservation.
“In terms of wildlife and habitat conservation, operators in the wildlife areas commit to a number of projects, amongst them the provision of water for wildlife,” said Theophilus. “The operators also do anti-poaching work in the areas they are operating, thereby benefitting the resource.”
International hunting revenue also continues to significantly support socio-economic developments in Botswana’s hunting communities.
The vice chairman of the elephant over-populated Chobe District-based Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT), Nchungu Nchungu, said the CECT has used international hunting revenue to establish other businesses such as the Linyanti and Ngoma Lodges in order to diversify benefits from international hunting.
“We used international hunting revenue to buy eight tractors for ploughing and for collecting firewood for the local communities,” he said. “We also used international hunting revenue to establish two general dealer shops in the Mabele and Parakarungu Villages, and a milling plant in Parakarungu. Right now, we are working on creating a business plan so that we know where to lean on (fall back on) in case there is a future international hunting ban.”
He said local communities understand that revenue from hunting helps to alleviate poverty, and crucially promotes wildlife and habitat conservation.
“They understand that wildlife can be tolerated, despite human- wildlife-conflict, because living with and benefiting these wild animals also helps put something on the table,” said Nchungu. “Wildlife can make them earn a better living. This year, we earned US$392 285.00 from wildlife that is going to be hunted in the hunting season that starts on 6 April 2022. Fifteen elephants are among other wildlife to be hunted in 2022.”
Elsewhere, the Executive Director of the Botswana Council of NGOs, Siyoka Simasiku, said international hunting revenue supports a wide range of socio-economic projects in local hunting communities, including the provision of clean drinking water, higher education sponsorship, funeral cover for community members, supply of solar power and household income.
Nevertheless, Botswana’s hunting communities argue that they should benefit more from international hunting revenue.
At the November 2021 Kasane African Wildlife Consultative Forum, Botswana’s hunting communities took the lead in calling for the removal of international hunting middlemen in order to create win-win hunting benefits. The Botswana Government said it supports this initiative. Therefore, the Botswana Parliament plans to introduce a Community-Based Natural Resources Management Act (CBNRM Act) this year. Among other things, the CBNRM Act would ensure that local hunting communities enjoy equitable benefits from international hunting.
Meanwhile, steps are already being taken towards empowering the representatives of local hunting communities with the knowledge of how hunting is marketed internationally.
“As a first step towards investigating possibilities to remove the international hunting middlemen, representatives of Botswana’s hunting communities in January this year attended the Safari Club International Hunting Convention in Las Vegas, USA to learn what’s happening in the international hunting market. A meeting to report back on their findings to all trusts is planned for May 2022,” said Simasiku.
*Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist, who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.