Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Community trusts face collapse as hunting ban bites

Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism has not yet delivered on its earlier promise that it would financially assist community trusts that were dependent on revenue from hunting during the duration of the hunting ban. In an interview with Sunday Standard, Onkeme Mmolainyana of Mababe Community Trust in Ngamiland revealed that when the hunting ban was imposed, officials from the Ministry came and assured them that it will not affect them in any way because the trusts will be given assistance so that they stay afloat.
‘’Officials from the ministry came and assured us that we will be assisted financially for a short period to help us during this transition from hunting safaris to photographic safari. That was the last time we saw them. They never came back to us and we have not been assisted in any way’’ he said.
He also revealed that the officers informed them that the money would be available immediately as it was to sourced from the National Environmental Fund. He said they were very hopeful that they would continue operating with no hurdles, only to be disappointed after the government officials failed to deliver on the promise.
Read more in the latest Sunday Standard

Friday, July 11, 2014

Latest Babbler Number 59

Report on Kwando Vulture poisoning investigation 16 November 2013
By J.W. McNutt, J. Bradley and P. Hancock
As previous report dated 21 August 2013 described an aerial investigation conducted on 19 August of a poisoned elephant carcass with nearby dead vultures in the Kwando Concession (NG14). Coordinates of the poisoning were originally communicated by Kwando Safaris to Pete Hancock. Photographs taken on 19 August from the air showed evidence of what appeared to be dozens of dead vultures around some skeletal remains of an elephant.
The 21 August report of this cursory aerial investigation written by Dr James Bradley, of Kalahari Research and Conservation, and Dr J.W. McNutt, Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, was disributed to interested stakeholders. Due to the photographic evidence of large numbers of dead vultures, the report emphasized the importance of further investigation on the ground. Ground investigation options were discussed with the concession holders, but prior to mid-November, an investigation of the remote site had not been organized and no ground investigation had been conducted.
Three ephant carcasses were located approximately 300m apart at wpts: 1) S18.21711 E23.19047, 2) S18.21698 E23.19336, and 3) S18.21864 E23.18891 (Map Datum WGS84).
1. Elephant Carcass 1: 286 dead vultures were estimated by counting, 228 individual pelvic structures were collected, and sculls used to identify species included 4 Lappet-faced and 2 Hooded Vultures (the remainder were presumed to be White-backed)
2. Carcass 2: 38 dead vultures were estimated by counting, 34 individual pelvic structures were collected, all were White-backed
3. Elephant Carcass 3: Two (2) White-backed Vultures were found
No tusks were present at any of these three remains. Two of the three skulls show evidence that tusks were chopped out probably by axe. All three carcasses showed evidence of having been burned. All three were <_150 a="" from="" nearby="" p="" track.="" vehicle="">Samples of a pink splattered substance found on the feathers of dead vultures lying beneath the largest tree 20m from the elephant carcass were collected for possible analysis and identification.
At the main poison site (Elephant Carcass 1) we estimated 286 dead vultures by counting carcass remains. From among those remains 228 individual pelvic structures were collected. Skulls were used to identify species and included to identify species and included 4 Lappet-faced and 2 hooded vultures (the remainder were presumed to be White-backed). At Elephan Carcass 2, 38 dead  vultures were estimated by counting, and 34 individuals pelvic bones were collected. All were White-backed vultures. Carcass 3, located 300m from carcass 1, was within 15m of the near by road (track) and only two White-backed Vulture remains were found. Although no tusks were present, we saw no evidence of chopping of the maxilla on this elephant skull.
It is possible that all three carcasses were poisoned, but the majority of the dead birds were found at Carcass 1. Another 38 vultures died at carcass 2. Both these carcasses were further from the road (>100m) than the third carcass. The date of the poisoning is unknown, and we have no knowledge of who burned the carcasses, nor whether any vulture carcasses were also burned at the same time. It is noteworthy that no dead vultures were found within 2-3m of the burned elephant remains at carcasses 1 and 2. Given the distribution of dead birds elsewhere in the vicinity, we consider it likely that an unknown and unrecoverable number of vulture carcasses were burned when the elephants were burned.
Therefore, our estimate is 326 dead vultures (collectively from all 3 elephant carcasses) represented by the remains of vulture carcasses still present on 16 November at least 6 months after they died is likely to be conservative. The absoluet minimum number of 264 dead vultures is based on collected and counted synsacrum bones.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The battle for Moremi Gami Reserve

Controversy is trailing the true ownership of the Moremi Game Reserve - a tourist's fortress near Maun. Member of parliament for Maun West Tawana Moremi is on a mission to have ownership of the reserve describe d by the Botswana Tourism Organisation as a ''gem of a national park'' - transferred back to Batawana community. On Wednesday the MP asked the lands minister Lebonaamang Mokalake if he is aware that sa of 1963 the land known as Moremi Game Reserve has been allocated and a grant made as per the Tawana Land Board minutes of  6-7 February 1978. ''Tribal land regulations section 20 (4) requires consent of the owner of rights over Moremi Game Reserve for any grants over the land,'' argues Moremi. Read more in Botswana Guardian.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Okavango Delta Listed as a Natural World Heritage Site

The 38th Session of the World Heritage Committee, which has been meeting in Doha this week, has agreed to the Inscription of the Okavango Delta as a Natural World Heritage Site. Below is the text of the Minister of Environement, Wildlife and Tourism, the Honourable Tshedkedi Khama’s, acceptance speech following the announcement.
On behalf of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Botswana Lt. Gen. SKI Khama, the government and the people of Botswana, I am happy to accept the status bestowed on our Okavango Delta, Natural World Heritage Site. This is evidence that the international community recognizes and acknowledges the natural outstanding universal values of the Okavango Delta.
Madam Chair, let me assure you that the government of Botswana is committed to the protection of all its natural and cultural heritage, regardless of whether it is a World Heritage site or not. We therefore assure the committee that we will continue to work with relevant stakeholders, most importantly the communities living in and around the Okavango Delta, and the riparian States of Angola and Namibia to maintain the integrity of the Okavango Delta.
We are very honored to have the Okavango Delta as one of the World Heritage sites after Tsodilo Hills which was inscribed in 2001. The success of this nomination is attributed to the support of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), the World Heritage Centre, IUCN, ICOMOS, through the Nomination Training Programme for Africa dedicated to the training of heritage professionals in Africa in the development of nomination dossiers with the aim of increasing the number of World Heritage Sites in Africa in the World Heritage List.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fishing - a way of life for Okavango people

In an exclusive email interview, Dr Robert Hitchcock asserts that the human inhabitants of the Okavango region support themselves through combination of strategies, among them fishing, agriculture, livestock rearing, and wage labour.
''An important source of income for the people of the Okavango region is the sale of fish, firewood, thatching grass and palm leaves which are used for making baskets,'' Hitchcock goes on to say.
Approximately 20 kilometres north east of the tourist town of Maun lies the small village of Sexaxa. This is the village of the Wayeyi people, commonly known as as the Bayeyi. On the side of the tarmac road stands a small market comprising two corrugated iron shelters and makeshift wooden racks erected just beside the road. Fresh fish hang on the racks, while several man sit under the shade of mophane tree. More fish hang from tree branches. Occasionally vehicles stop and customers pile out to purchase fresh fish.
Traditionally, the Wayeyi were were a river people. That is, they built their homes near a river and explored its aquatic resources. When they built they migrated south from Zambia to Botswana in the mid - 1700s, they settled in the Okavango Delta. Sexaxa is located on the edge of the Thamalakane River, a tributary of the Okavango Delta. Fishing here is not just a cultural activity: it is a means of sustenance.
Sexaxa resident John Thewa, a merchant at the fish market, says virtually every man in the village household catches fish for his family: ''Fish is our staple food here, and there are many species of edible fish in the river. Fishing is a culture we have been born into.Our great grandfathers were fishermen. It is in our blood'' Thewa reveals, noting that the local fish market is thin on the ground.
''We live in a region with an abundance of fish. Visitors can get their fish supplies anywhere - from Xhana to Maun to Sehithwa, and all the way up to Shakawe. We try to keepour prices low so as to attract buyers.''
An old man squats by the river edge, both feet submerged in the water. ''Ni tishire, Na tambuka?'' he greets in Shiyeyi, a local vernacular. As he speaks, he continues spliting open the bellies of the still writhing fish, eviscerating them with his small, sharp knife. He passes them to the two boys by his side to scrape off scale.
Although the fishermen fish mainly for home consumption when fish is caught in substantial amounts, it is usually bought to Maun to be sold. The Sexaxa villagers cook their fish in different ways, such as frying and grilling, but boiling is the favoured method. As one walks through the village, a smell of fish lingers in the air. A visit to this small, pictureresque Okavango village reveals people still proud of their traditions. Extracted from The Midweek Sun.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Temperatures to plummet countrywide

                                                                                                    The Meteorological Services Department has warned of colder temperatures across the country this weekend until Wednesday, particularly in the Kgalagadi District and other areas in the south, due to a cold front coming from South Africa. 
Radithupa Radithupa told Mmegi yesterday that temperatures in the southern parts of the country would dip as low as negative three degrees Celsius, while other areas would also experience colder weather.“There’s a cold front passing through the south-western parts of South Africa such as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth,” he said. “Ahead of that front, there’s warm air that is giving them rain, but behind it is very cold air. “That cold air is travelling up the sub-continent into Botswana and dropping temperatures, especially in the south. The cold air is modified as it moves over land, becoming less cold in the north.”According to Radithupa, areas such as Bokspits in Kgalagadi District will experience the worst of the weekend cold snap, with maximum temperatures there ranging around 13 degrees Celsius. In Gaborone, the Met Services Department forecasts temperatures to range between two degrees and 17 on Friday and zero to 18 on Saturday, with only a marginally higher difference on Sunday. In Francistown, temperatures will range between four and 19 degrees on Friday and three and 19 degrees on Saturday. Radithupa said the temperatures were consistent with the winter period and did not warrant special notices or alarm. “However, we advise everyone to keep warm because it will be very cold and even windy at times,” he said. -

Monday, May 19, 2014

Presentation at ORI: New Research Center in the Chobe Enclave by John van Thuyne

You are invited to a presentation by John van Thuyne on Friday, 23rd May at 1030am in the Seminar room. John van Thuyne is a researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland in the Faculty of Geosciences. He came to Botswana in 1992 and founded Okavango People Wildlife Trust, after six years of operation he handed over activities of the Trust to Conservation International.
John came back to Botswana in 2010 and started setting up a Research Center in the Chobe Enclave. Construction of the Center is reaching completion and they plan to be open in June this year. The aim and goal of this facility is to welcome any scientists from Botswana or abroad to come and use this interdisciplinary center in order to fulfill field work research in different domains such as : geology, biology or anthropology. The concept is to go out there, gather material and data, sample it and then exchange and share between scientists from different horizons. The Center has partnerships with several universities amongst them UB, Wits University, the University College of London, the University of Lausanne and Penn state University in the US.
John van Thuyne hopes to use this opportunity to interact with ORI researchers and identify possible areas of collaboration, grants opportunities from Switzerland and elsewhere, financial support for common projects, propositions of research topics to be under taken in the area.

BOCCIM pro hunting group investigate hunting ban

Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) and Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BWPA) have resolved to engage an independent consultant to investigate the impact of hunting ban on the Botswana economy. Minutes of a meeting held by the two organisations, reveals that BOCCIM feels that government needs to appreciate that hunting is a good and sustainable tool for conservation and allow hunting under auction.

The two organisations proposed an independent study to assess the impact of the ban hunting and viability of photographic safaris focusing on history of game ranching, Industry dynamics, Economic and Ecological impact, statistics, solutions and strategies and implications. BOCCIM noted that the ban already has adverse effects on the local economy because most of the trophy hunters were largely drawn to Botswana by elephant hunting with ranch hunting only serving as a subsidiary activity.

The industry does not agree with the reasons provided by Government for the hunting ban; especially the reason on decline in the wildlife species apparently due to hunting. The industry argues that there are figures that prove the animal population in Botswana is not declining and the elephant population has increased over the years. In the industry’s view, other factors such as illegal hunting, drought, flooding in the Delta area, veldt fires and rain were not taken into account. Industry members also raised concerns about the ban-albeit temporary- on export of live animals and carcass because it hampers investment in good quality genes.

The temporary ban on export of live animals as explained by the industry will lead to loss of species because investors cannot import animals for breeding if they cannot export their produce. Game farmers are not willing to import animals if they cannot realize good returns on their investment. The net effect of this ban is loss of jobs, import opportunities, revenue and lower asset values. The value of a farm that is allowed to export is higher than one which is barred. Private Secretary to the Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Pako Nyepi told theSunday Standard that the Minister could not comment because he was attending a meeting.