AN OPEN LETTER TO BOTSWANA PRESIDENT MOKGWEETSI MASISI
RE: Dismiss Environment Minister Khama For Favouring Animal Rights Groups Over Your Wildlife Policies
Dear President Masisi,
I applaud your decision to rejoin the pro-hunting and pro- ivory trade governments of the SADC region, restoring Botswana to the only course that will support sound conservation policies and save its elephants from poaching.
Perhaps the reason why the world does not know of your position in these two areas is that your Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama,has failed to support your pro-sustainable use policies. That would seem reason enough to fire him. An American public policy expert has said that Khama isthe obstacle that stands in the way of implementing your resolve to resume elephant hunting and support of the ivory trade.
Tshekedi Khama,in league with his brother and former president, Ian, allowed the country tobe captured by animal rights groups. What was their reward for this extraordinary decision other than support for their upmarket tourism enterprises to such prime destinations as Kavango Delta, Chobe, Maun and other places? We don’t know, but we guess it was lucrative to the Khama family.
Many people including you, Mr President, might be wondering how a country long known for its popular elephant hunting industry and for its support of the-ivory trade got captured by animal rights groups as well as big foreign tourism operations?
Top officials in conservation circles in Botswana and those from SADC countries say that your predecessor adopted positions maintained by Western animal rights groups after those groups made him look like he was Africa’s ‘best performing leader’in environmental management matters and especially on elephant issues.
In 2012, the Washington DC-based Conservation International (CI) – an anti-elephant hunting and ivory trade animal rights group— elevated Khamaon the world stage when they asked him to host the CI Summit for Sustainability in Africa. Later Khama proved his value to CI by banning elephant hunting in 2014. With an animal rights group having effectively captured Botswana’s environmental policies, the country did not support other Southern African nations in their call for international trade in ivory at the Johannesburg CITES Conference of 2016.
Then in July 2018 former President Khama publicly agreed to lend his political and diplomatic weight to further advance the animal rights agenda in Botswana and Africa when he became a Distinguished Fellow for CI. We don’t know the stipend for this position. What we do know is that CI is heavily funded by Walmart, the US-based big box outlet that is the world’s biggest retail company.Through President Khama’s association with CI’s well-funded activities,he became the ‘weapon’ that flipped Botswana from pro-sustainable use to anti-trade.Khama also retains membership inThe Giants Club,a group of anti-ivory business people in East African countries such as Kenya and Uganda that collectively have fewer elephants than Botswana.The Giants Club has failed dismally for the past 20 years to prove that no trade, no hunting, and no culling is the right way to conserve elephants. The elephant numbers keep decreasing in the face of continuing poaching and human encroachment. Clearly bans on ivory, such as favored by the Giants Club, do not work. They have not stopped poaching.
The capture of Botswana by animal rights groups can be seen through the work of another animal rights group called Elephants Without Borders (EWB). This group was appointed to do Botswana’s elephant census. Rather than reveal the total elephants they now estimate live in Botswana, EWB instead announced that 87 elephants had been poached in what sounded like an alarming massacre of these iconic animals. But why did an animal rights group rather than the Botswana Government announce this astounding discovery? Minister of Environment and Tourism Khama did not at first challenge the EWB numbers.Instead, officials from his agency’s Department of Parks and Wildlife Management said the figures were incorrect. Then you, Mr President Masisi, also questioned the figures. But in telling support for the animal rights group, to save its reputation, and most significantly in contradiction of his superior, Minister Khama said that 87 elephants had indeed been poached in Botswana.
Now we understand that some US-based animal rights groups plan to demonstrate against you Mr President Masisi, at the United Nations where you are scheduled to address the General Assembly. They want to smear you as an elephant killer while you correctly are seeking the best way to preserve one of Botswana’s key assets. Thank you, in advance, President Masisi for standing up against outside groups that want to interfere in Botswana’s internal affairs. Moreover, three top Southern African ecologists who spoke on conditions of anonymity say that as long as Botswana does not resume elephant hunting to reduce the size of the herds overrunning the available habitats, its wildlife conservation programmer, including elephant conservation efforts, are doomed to fail.
Botswana needs to lift its ban on elephant trophy hunting, support international trade in ivory, and give rural communities a chance to grow and prosper. This worked in the past and can work again in the future.We hope, Mr. President, you will issue the necessary orders to accomplish this change in policy.
About The Writer: Paul Steven is Harare-based environmental analyst and writer.
The Express News