– Country Overview –
Location: Botswana encompasses 581,730 square kilometers in the center of Southern Africa. It is flanked by Namibia on the west and Zimbabwe to the east. Namibia’s Caprivi Strip stretches around Botswana’s northwestern border until it creates a point where Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet with Botswana. South Africa lies along the southern border. About 70% of Botswana is the flat, high-plain sandveld of the Kalahari Desert. Woodland flora is predominantly scrub mopane and acacias. Botswana also is home to one of the largest inland deltas of the world, the Okavango Delta, which is also a UNESCO Heritage site.
Current Travel Status: Phased reopening beginning November 9, with opening of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Kasane International Airport and Maun International Airport. Ground and ferry crossings will resume on December 1st at selected commercial border points of entry. Also on December 1, air travel will resume at Phillip G. Matante International Airport in Francistown.
COVID-19 Protocols: Travelers must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result issued 72 hours prior to departure for Botswana. Arriving travelers are screened for symptoms upon entry. Mandatory testing and possible isolation or quarantine is required of anyone symptomatic. Travelers must self-monitor and remain in contact with local health authorities for 14 days. Non-citizens who do not meet requirements will not be allowed to enter Botswana.
Engagement with AWCF and SCIF Involvement:Botswana hosted the AWCF meeting in 2002 in Kasane and again in 2012. After an absence of five years (during the hunting moratorium), Botswana returned to participate AWCF. The 2021 AWCF is scheduled to be held in Kasane, Botswana with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks hosting the meeting with other African wildlife management leaders.Botswana is a committed leader in the sustainable conservation of elephants and other species using ethical, science-based strategies, regardless of the criticism their wildlife managers have received from opponents to consumptive use of wildlife both within and outside their borders.At the 2019 AWCF, Botswana’s wildlife managers championed the importance of community-based natural resource management and how allowing communities to benefit directly from their wildlife is key to successfully conserving species.
– Conservation & Hunting Information–
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP)
- DWNP is tasked with conserving and managing the country’s wildlife resources and their habitats.
- About 42% of Botswana’s landmass is reserved for conservation of its wildlife, including national parks and game reserves. DWNP is responsible for the management of these areas and the wildlife that live there.
- DWNP oversees hunting in Botswana, including licensing of professional hunters and issuing of hunting quotas.
- Poaching remains one of the greatest challenges in the sustainable management of Botswana’s wildlife species. At least 63 rhinos have been killed since 2019.
- As part of the interventions to combat poaching, rhinos in the Okavango Delta have been dehorned and construction of the Kang Anti-Poaching Facility was completed in August 2020. The facility will be used train wildlife officers in anti-poaching.
- Review of the National Anti-Poaching Strategy will be completed by March 2021 to strengthen measures against poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.
- A total 280 elephants mysteriously died in the Ngamiland District from April through June 2020, leading to international speculation of intentional poisoning. Test samples were sent to laboratories within Botswana, as well as to Zimbabwe, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Investigations revealed the animals were killed by natural cyanobacteria toxins produced by drought conditions in various water sources.
- The sightings of elephants outside of the normal elephant range continue to increase. Elephants were cited as far the Kgalagadi area. This expansion is exacerbated by drought and climate change.
- Human-wildlife conflict continues to pose a challenge to livelihoods of Batswana, particularly human-elephant conflicts.
- Construction of a fence in western Makgadikgadi is anticipated to reduce the impact of wildlife on community livelihoods and also act as a disease control barrier. Completion is expected by March 2021.
- DWNP is finalizing a National Elephant Action Plan as well as a Predator Strategy, to address issues like those mentioned above. Completion is expected this financial year. The plans are also necessary for the hunting sector to acquire requisite import permits from key hunting markets.
Botswana Wildlife Producers Association
- The Botswana Wildlife Producers Association is an association of stakeholders with the conservation and management of Botswana’s wildlife as its focus, including sustainable utilization of natural resources through a process of responsible and ethical management options.
- The code of conduct embraces the disciplined, ethical and legislated means to participate in, co-operate with and benefit from sustainable and controlled hunting activities in Botswana.
History of Hunting in Botswana:
- Before 2013, Botswana was considered one of the top dangerous-game hunting countries in southern Africa, with elephants, lions, leopards, and a wide variety of plains game throughout the Kalahari Desert to the vast Okavango Delta.
- Hunting in Botswana is guided by the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act No.28 of 1992 and the Hunting and Licensing Regulations of 2001.
- In 2014, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism issued a moratorium on hunting in all government and community lands in Botswana, although hunting continued on ranches and other private properties where landowners kept and managed their own herds of plains game.
- The hunting moratorium resulted in a loss of income for many communities in northern Botswana where the areas do not lend themselves to photographic tourism, and companies devoted to this kind of tourism never acquired the areas.
- In 2018 the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, conducted an extensive consultative process with affected stakeholders.
- The consultation with communities found high levels of elephant conflict and impact on livelihoods; high levels of predator conflict and loss of livestock; high compensation claims and DWNP lacking the capacity to effectively manage problem animals and human/wildlife conflicts.
- In 2019, the government under the leadership of President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi made a research-based and informed decision to lift the hunting suspension, creating new opportunities for community development.
- Communities had planned on the income from the first elephant safaris to be held since the moratorium, but the 2020 pandemic has delayed the restart of hunting in Botswana.
How Hunting is Organized:
- Hunting in Botswana is guided by the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act and Hunting and Licensing Regulations
- Hunting quotas for each area are to be determined and set by the DWNP, based on the aerial survey monitoring program and ground counts undertaken for large carnivores and birds and scientific models accounting for breeding ages of different species, different gestation periods and ages at which animals mature.
- Hunting quotas in Botswana are considerably below the recommended allowable offtake for cropping and trophy offtake for all hunted species.
- 60% of quotas are to be assigned to Community Based Organizations (CBOs), which in turn make agreements with safari operators for the marketing, sale and operation of the hunts.
- The sale of quotas is available to Botswana-based operators or citizen PH’s only.
- The entire quota for each area is sold under tender, benefiting communities and with the licensing fees going to DWNP.
- The country is divided into 163 Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs) that are zoned for a particular form of resource management and are aligned with existing administrative, land tenure and land use boundaries.
- Hunting is to be done in designated CHAs – citizen hunting areas, community areas, concession areas and areas designated for special elephant quotas.
- A Community Utilization Area is a CHA allocated to a community that has formed a Community Based Organization (CBO)
- Botswana’s Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program brings together community stakeholders to establish sustainable economic development that also supports biodiversity conservation. CBNRM includes both consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife use.
- Areas of high conflict are considered a priority, with prevailing drought conditions necessitating speedy implementation. Unfortunately, the pandemic has interrupted efforts to mitigate these circumstances.
- Controlled hunting under strict management and periodic review was to begin in April 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hunting Industry Update:
- Hunting operators invested US$5.6 million on acquiring elephant quota at auction and through closed tender, plus additional funds to prepare operations for the renewed hunting season. That has been sidelined by the pandemic, with most booked hunts cancelled or postponed.
- The funds from the sale of the special elephant quota in areas where photographic tourism does not contribute is held by DWNP in the Conservation Trust Fund, and communities are not able to benefit from those funds until the hunting is reopened.
- Increased unemployment and shortage of food, especially protein has led to an increase in poaching by community members to sustain themselves during this time.
- The pandemic has had a severe negative impact on the game ranching and hunting sector, limiting its potential to stimulate the rural economy.
- Estimated combination of game ranches and private closed system game reserves in Botswana is approximately 2,063,330 acres (835,000 hectares), supporting an estimated 162,000 head of game animals, including endangered species.
- Game ranches accommodate more than 60% of Botswana’s southern white rhino population and more than 75% of its southcentral black rhino population.
- Biltong and trophy hunting are the most common income activities on game ranches, with 52.6% conducting hunts.
- About a third of Botswana’s game ranchers offer photographic safaris and/or conduct live game sales.
- 10.5% of game ranches sell venison for income.
- Game ranches permanently employ an estimated 2,665 people.
- Game ranching industry produces about US$42,142,197 (P468,000,000) annually
- 21% of game ranches serve only international clients, while 21% percent serve local, regional and international clients, and 47.37% serve only local hunters.
- 65% of bookings for 2020 were cancelled due to COVID-19, with an expected loss of approximately US$39,170,632 (P435,000,000).
- Refunding, rescheduling and reducing fees were the main methods of mitigating the cancelled bookings for 2020.
- Client bookings for 2020 before COVID-19 was slightly higher than 2019, showing there was growth in the sector before the pandemic.
- Game ranches cancelled an estimated US$2,985,785 (P33,157,920) in environmental services and US$8,317,540 (P92,368,440) in infrastructure developments for 2020.
- A survey by BWPA of its members showed that nearly a third may be downsizing operations to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including reduction of staff.
- 79% of survey respondents were concerned about environmental crime increases, and 84% were concerned about the financial impact on their businesses.
- 74% indicated they would require a combination of financial support measures to assist with the recovery of their businesses.
- The total estimated financial support required to assist the recovery of the game ranching industry is US$32,075,841 (P356,210,520)
- The COVID-19 outbreak and resulting control measures has had a severe negative impact on the game ranching industry which is affecting the direct income and employment on game ranches and additionally has a negative economic impact on adjacent communities, the building industry and support services such as aerial counts, environmental services and freelance professional hunters.
– Tourism Opportunities/General Travel Info –
Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO)
The Botswana Tourism Organization was created by the government of Botswana to market tourist products, to grade and classify tourist accommodations, and to promote investment in the tourism sector. Its goal is to increase tourism’s contribution to the economic growth of Botswana by developing a unique destination of choice among travelers.
Dedicated to preserving the heritage and environment of Botswana, the organization has laid down conservation policies and ecotourism strategies to ensure that tourism is sustainable for its inhabitants and future generations while still contributing meaningfully to the national economy. The tourism industry has helped diversify Botswana’s economy from traditional sources such as diamonds and beef.
The BTO’s website offers information on everything a potential visitor needs to know on travel to Botswana, attractions and activities, insights and advice, including a list of books for visitors to read.
– Impacts from Pandemic –
To tourism in general:
- Tourism is the second largest income earning industry in Botswana, after mining. Nearly 2 million tourists travel to Botswana annually.
- COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the gains previously made in the tourism sector.
- Tourism in the first quarter of 2020 was down 70% in Botswana.
- By the end of April 2020, it was estimated that 90.7% of all tourism enterprises had closed with only 9.3 percent still open primarily for periodic quarantine purposes.
- With the closure of Botswana’s borders and an internal lockdown, the tourism industry has been shut down since April 2020.
To Conservation Efforts, Community-Based Resource Management and the Hunting Safari Hunting Industry:
- The tourism closure caused by the pandemic has left communities that typically receive income from non-consumptive wildlife tourism without any income for the year.
- The lodges and touring companies operating non-consumptive wildlife tourism have also been left without income.
- The game ranching and hunting sector have been severely impacted.
- The border closures and travel restrictions in Botswana and its key hunting markets prevented the planned restart of hunting on government and community lands in Botswana; private properties that offer hunting lost all tourist hunting revenue as well.
- Communities had made agreements with international safari hunting operators to take advantage of the renewed hunting season and quota, planning on income from those hunts. The pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions and border closures meant communities did not receive any income from hunting this year.
- Safari operators committed up to US$5.6 million on elephant quota in certain wildlife management areas, only for the season to be cancelled within 10 days of opening. Agreements with community trusts for their hunting quota have been sidelined. Communities have high expectations of the hunting sector in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In late April 2020, the CEO of the Botswana Tourism Organization noted that hunting may only take place toward the end of the year, or even next year.
- This has dealt a significant blow to tourism-dependent communities in northern Botswana, especially in areas where photographic safaris have proven unprofitable. Their livelihoods had already dwindled following the 2014 hunting suspension.
- Losses of livestock, property and human life also have continued without the mitigation that was expected from hunting in 2020.
- The Government received P65.8 million in support from the Federal Republic of Germany through the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) and Peace Parks Foundation to subsidize community livelihoods and personnel within the KAZA region of Botswana.