Open Letter to the Honourable President of Botswana Mr Mokgweetsi about the Culling of Elephants.

Honourable President, I agree completely with you that people and politicians from European countries should not criticise you. After all they have destroyed the wild life in there own countries a long time ago. So who are they to tell you what to do?

What I will say is people from other countries spend a huge amount of money in your country every year, more than a billion dollars if I am not mistaken.

The idea of an abattoir to process the elephants is not a new one. An abattoir was constructed in Zambia but closed down and Kruger National Park had one in the 70’s and 80’s which closed down when elephant culling was discontinued. This abattoir in Kruger has since re-opened.

The problem with an abattoir Mr. President, is where are you going to site it and how are you going to get the carcasses to the abattoir over the vast distances. In addition you can only operate in the cooler months otherwise your carcasses will be rotten by the time they get to the abattoir.

Mobile abattoirs may be a better alternative, but these too, are logistically difficult.

One of the dangers you face, is as you start to cull the elephants, (I presume you will use the helicopter methods perfected by Kruger Park) you will rapidly lose the trust that has been built up between human beings and elephants through your ecotourism industry. In short you may be endangering your villages and the people in them by introducing culling.

The recommendations suggest compensation and fencing of villages to prevent elephants entering the villages. I believe these are outstanding recommendations and with the standard of solar powered fences today, easily achievable.

I would like to go one step further Mr. President and suggest that you introduce a “Community Tax”. Every tourist entering Botswana pays a tax to the government and this is used to safeguard communities, pay compensation, education, health care etc.

With up to 2 million tourists coming to Botswana every year, this could be extremely lucrative to your Government.

Mr. President I would like to see you incentivise game lodges into areas where there are less lodges. Then each lodge is linked to a school or clinic in the neighbouring village. We have done this in South Africa very successfully.

In other words the Botswana Government helps the lodge operator to get established and the lodges help the communities with health and education once they are established.

Mr President I lived 17 years in the Masai Mara of Kenya. I watched every year as 1.4 million wildebeest moved from Tanzania to Kenya along their traditional migratory routes. This animal migration earned and still earns both Tanzania and Kenya millions of dollars each year and creates tens of thousands of jobs. Therefore it is puzzling to me Mr. President, why they would recommend migratory routes be closed with fences.

Your vast beautiful country with free ranging wild life is the envy of the world.

To fence off migratory routes with fences would be an absolute disaster. It would be a giant step backwards and cause the death of hundreds of thousands of animals against the fences. I urge you Mr. President to rethink this! This would not help your people in any way.

In summary Mr President, you have a magnificent country with an abundance of wild life. You have a relatively low human population compared to other African Countries. You have a market of wealthy high income individuals travelling to your country and spending foreign currencies with you. This is sustainable and expandable.

Surely the goal now is to let every Botswana citizen, especially those living side by side with the wild life, taste the benefits of the tourist income. Jobs, health training, education, roads infrastructure can all be financed by ecotourism which operates for 365 days a year.

Good luck to you Mr. President. I’m sure you will do the right thing for the people of Botswana.

Tread Lightly on the Earth John Varty Global Environmental Activist

To book Tiger Safaris, Big Cat Safaris, JV the Campfire Singer or the Tiger Band 082 892 4680; 083 651 1600

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