Citing declining wildlife populations, the government of Botswana has confirmed that it will ban all commercial hunting, effective January 1, 2014. After being suggested in October during the President’s State of the Nation address, the ban was confirmed this week by the nation’s Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.
Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, slightly smaller than the state of Texas and dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of the country. It’s known for its diverse areas of wildlife habitat of grasslands and savannas, much of which comprises game reserves. The Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta, is also found there.
Botswana is home to the world’s largest population of African elephants, as well as Blue wildebeest, various antelopes, a large population of African wild dogs, giraffes, lions, buffalo, hundreds of species of birds, and more. It has been one of the continent’s top destinations for safaris.
Once among Africa’s poorest countries, it now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, due in part to international hunters contributing to the tourism industry. However, government officials say eliminating hunting will open the door for other types of year-round tourism, such as photo safaris.
Tourism, primarily through hunting, currently accounts for 12 percent of Botswana’s gross domestic product.
In confirming the hunting ban, the Ministry said, “This comes as a realization that the shooting of wild game purely for sport and trophies is no longer seen to be compatible with either our national commitment to conserve and preserve local fauna or the long term growth of the local tourism industry.”
The statement continued, “The decision to impose this moratorium on hunting was made in the context of a growing concern about the sharp decline in the populations of most of the wildlife species that have been subject to licensed hunting. If left unchecked this decline poses a genuine threat to both the conservation of our natural heritage and the long term health of the local tourist industry which currently ranks second to diamonds in terms of its revenue earnings.
“Besides contributing to the conservation of wildlife it is anticipated that, in keeping with international trends, the moratorium on hunting will further facilitate the sustainable growth of the tourism sector, as hunting zones are converted into photographic areas.
“It may be noted here that while hunting is a seasonal activity, meaning that its contribution to the tourism sector and hence national revenue has also been seasonal and minimal, photographic tourism is conducted year round. Moreover, photographic tourism has virtually no potential for any negative impact on local wildlife populations and hence sustainable.”
Safari Club International and other hunting groups dispute the Botswana government’s claims that hunting revenues are “minimal.” According to SCI, hunting generates $20 million in revenue annually for Botswana.