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 Zambezi region stretches around Botswana’s northwestern border until it creates a point where Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all meet with Botswana, the heart of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) where nearly half of the continent’s elephant population resides. 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 mixed savannah.
Botswana is home to the largest inland delta in the world, the famous Okavango Delta, situated in the northwest of the country. It is approximately 16,000 square kilometers and is flooded every year by rivers from Angola. Botswana is separated into the rainy and dry seasons, with the Delta flooding during the otherwise dry winter season.
Botswana has installed wildlife fences around many national parks and refuges to protect both wildlife and the communities that live nearby. In addition to the wildlife fences surrounding national parks around the country, there is a livestock/wildlife fence that runs across Botswana to separate the Okavango Delta from the rest of the country. The fence was installed in response to European beef import requirements that cattle be physically separated from wild bovines. Wildlife such as Cape buffalo are well-known reservoirs for foot and mouth disease and can infect domestic livestock through direct contact. As such, communities living north of the fence in the Delta are prohibited from owning any livestock. The result is that these communities depend on ecotourism and hunting for employment, making the fence a central issue in conservation, international hunting, and community livelihoods.
Current Travel Information
- As of September 30, 2021, the State of Public Emergency has been lifted across the country.
- Travelers must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result issued within 72 hours of arrival in Botswana.
- Travelers must complete a traveler locator form for the local Health Authority.
- All travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test issued within 72 hours of departure from Botswana.
Impacts from Pandemic
To tourism in general
- The global pandemic has taken a toll on Botswana’s travel and tourism industry, reversing the 3.6% gains made in the tourism sector in 2019. The 2021 Annual Research Key Highlights by the World Travel and Tourism Council, indicate travel tourism contributions to Botswana’s GDP went from 12.6% in its 2020 report to 5.3% in its 2021 report.
- The Council also reports that jobs in travel and tourism declined 24% and international visitor spending declined 76.8%.
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 2 million tourists traveled to Botswana annually, per Statistics Botswana.
- With the closure of Botswana’s borders and an internal lockdown, the tourism industry had been shut down since April 2020. The national state of emergency was only recently lifted on September 30, 2021. However, many operators tried to encourage local tourism during the period when the border was closed.
- As of September, 2021, tour operators reported a 95% decline in revenues due to COVID-19, according to a market overview provided by the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.
- These declines were caused by a combination of travel restrictions: first, the initial border closures shut down all travel and tourism income, then the subsequent quarantine requirements for tourists returning home after travel abroad discouraged many would-be travelers from visiting Botswana and other destinations.
To Conservation Efforts, Community-Based Natural Resource Management and the Safari Hunting Industry
- The tourism closure caused by the pandemic has left communities that depend on income from non-consumptive wildlife tourism without income for almost two years.
- The lodges and touring companies operating non-consumptive wildlife tourism have also been left without income.
- The game ranching and hunting sectors likewise 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 in 2020; 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 in 2020.
- Safari operators committed up to US$5.6 million on elephant quotas in certain wildlife management areas, only for the season to be cancelled within 10 days of opening in 2020. Regardless, communities had high expectations of the hunting sector in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The hunting season was finally opened from April to September of 2021 but did not make the necessary recovery for the industry and communities.
- 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.
- 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.
Engagement with AWCF and SCIF Involvement
- Botswana hosted the very first AWCF meeting in 2002 in Kasane and again in 2012.
- After an absence of five years (during the hunting moratorium), Botswana returned to participate in AWCF, presenting the implementation plan for their new wildlife and community-based reform that included re-opening of tourist hunting.
- 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. These conversations continued in the virtual 2020 AWCF, with further discussions about re-opening the tourism and hunting industries.
- The 2021 AWCF is being held in Kasane, Botswana, with the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Nature Resource Conservation and Tourism and its Department of Wildlife and National Parks hosting the meeting with other African wildlife management leaders.
- The Botswana Wildlife Producers Association is also actively participating and sponsoring the arrival reception dinner. BWPA is an active conservation association aiming towards protection of the valuable resources.
- 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.
- Botswana, along with its member states of the Southern African Development Community, is a strong voice for sustainable use at CITES, having registered reservations on several species listing decisions made at the last CoP19.
Wildlife Conservation 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.
- According to His Excellency President Masisi, poaching remains one of the greatest challenges to the sustainable management of Botswana’s wildlife species.
- At least 92 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2019 and 2020, a significant increase from five in 2018 and 1 or none in previous years. Poachers have been emboldened by the absence of tourists in the areas and the reduced income to fund antipoaching efforts.
- Following this surge in rhino poaching in the Okavango Delta, DWNP increased foot and aerial patrols, dehorned the rhinos and moved all the critically endangered black rhinos to fenced sanctuaries. Construction of the Kang Anti-Poaching Facility was completed in August 2020 to train wildlife officers in anti-poaching.
- The Botswana Elephant Management and Action Plan for 2021–2026 was finalized in March 2021. The plan covers three primary objects: maintaining viable populations of elephant through minimal interference and adaptive management; ensuring elephant populations do not adversely impact biodiversity conservation goals and community livelihoods; and realizing the full economic potential of elephants and other wildlife outside protected areas through sustainable utilization. The plan is also necessary for the hunting sector to acquire requisite import permits from key hunting markets, including the United States and the European Union.
- In 2021, DWNP issued a quota of 287 elephant, including the quota of 187 that had been rolled over from the canceled 2020 hunt. Many of the hunters booked for the 2020 hunt were also unable or unwilling to travel to Botswana during the 2021 season.
- A total of 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 sighted as far the Kgalagadi area and other areas in southern Botswana.
- Human-wildlife conflict continues to pose a challenge to livelihoods of Batswana, particularly human-elephant conflicts. The elephant population is rapidly increasing, exceeding ecosystem carrying capacity and damaging rural livelihoods. This prompted the lifting of the hunting ban in 2019.
- Electric fences in areas bordering communities are being repaired or constructed to prevent human elephant conflicts. Re-alignment of the 36-kilometer fence in western Makgadikgadi continues from last year, and reconstruction of the Tuli Backline Fence commenced in April 2021 to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the Bobirwa Sub-District. These barriers are anticipated to reduce the impact of wildlife on community livelihoods and act as a disease control barrier for Botswana’s cattle industry.
Botswana Wildlife Producers Association
Chairman: Fino Masire
- 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 Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting control measures have had a negative impact on the game ranching industry, affecting direct income and employment on game ranches and negatively impacting economics in the adjacent communities.
- However, the Association is optimistic that there will be recovery during the 2022 season.
- The auctions for the Special Elephant as well as Community Quotas for 2022 are expected to be held some time in November 2021. The funds accruing from the sale will be deposited in the Conservation Trust Fund from which communities will benefit.
- It is anticipated that the opening up of the industry with the rollout of the vaccination campaigns will somehow stimulate the rural economy.
- Operationally, the Association operates through a Constitution and a Code of Conduct. Discussions are currently in progress to ensure that the industry is covered by the national legislation.
- 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.
About Hunting in Botswana
History – Suspension of Hunting and Its Reopening
- Botswana was once 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. (Joseph E. Mbaiwa (2018) Effects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana, South African Geographical Journal, 100:1, 41-61)
- In 2018 the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, conducted an extensive consultative process with affected stakeholders, including many local communities.
- 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 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 delayed the restart of hunting in Botswana until the 2021 season.
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.
- The Ngamiland Council of NGOs is the level support organization for communities in Ngamiland.
Wildlife and Game Species of Botswana
Botswana is perhaps best known for having the world’s largest concentration of African elephants in its northern region around the Okavango Delta. But Botswana also has savannas and grasslands supporting a variety of other species, including plains game, lions, leopards and one of the remaining large populations of endangered African wild dog. Following is a list of species considered game animals, though not all are hunted in Botswana.
Southern Greater Kudu
White and Black Rhino
Tourism Opportunities/General Travel Info
Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO)
Plot 50676, Fairgrounds Office Park
Block B, Ground Floor
Tel: +011-267-391-3111 Fax: +011-267-395-9220
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.
Botswana has an extensive network of hotels and lodges offering accommodations, food and beverages, gaming, entertainment and recreation and tourism services.
Accommodation options range from top class tourist hotels, luxury lodges and safari camps, to budget guesthouses and camping grounds. The major tourist areas have a choice of private lodges, safari camps and public camping sites.
Botswana’s biggest tourism draws are its game reserves, with hunting and photographic safaris.
National Parks and Transfrontier Areas
- Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area
- Chobe National Park
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
- Nxai Pans National Park
Other Protected Areas
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve
- Khutse Game Reserve
- Mashatu Game Reserve
- Mokolodi Nature Reserve
- Moremi Game Reserve
- Okavango Delta
UNESCO Heritage Sites
Two World Heritage sites for natural wonders and seven more on the tentative list for both natural and culture value.
- Okavango Delta – Comprising permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains, it is one of the very few major interior delta systems that does not flow into a sea or ocean. Unique to this area is that the annual flooding from the Okavango River occurs during the dry season, causing native plants and animals to synchronize their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods.
- Tsodilo – Sometimes called the ”Louvre of the Desert,” this area contains one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. Over 4,500 paintings are preserved in an area of only 10 square kilometers of the Kalahari Desert. The archaeological record of the area gives a chronological account of human activities and environmental changes over at least 100,000 years.