Assessment of elephant poaching in rural communities:
Case studies of four Villages in the Okavango Delta Area, Northern Botswana
Keywords:Elephants, illegal hunting, poaching, wildlife, conservation, sustainability
Botswana’s 2005 Environmental Management Act plays an important role in facilitating the overall management and sustainable utilisation of the country’s natural environment, including wildlife and the wilderness. Yet, wildlife conservation and poaching/illegal hunting is still a challenge in the country. Thus, the purpose of this study is to assess elephant poaching in four rural communities in the Okavango Delta region in Northern Botswana. A datasheet was designed and used to capture elephant poaching registered cases at the four wildlife (Department of wildlife and National parks) stations. Additionally, a semi-structured questionnaire with open and close-ended questions was used to solicit perceptions and thoughts on elephant poaching in the study area. The results indicate an increase in elephant poaching at the four study sites despite the newly introduced wildlife poaching deterrent strategy known as “shoot to kill”. A large number of elephants were poached and firearms were used, with the .375 calibre rifle and its ammunition being popular. Generally, elephant poaching occurs during the winter time and poachers are mainly citizens. Overall, illegal hunting or poaching of trophy animal species remains a challenge in Northern Botswana. While illegal poachers have become sophisticated, the management and sustainability of such resources prove to be difficult, although there is a sign of decline. Hence, the government has to deal with wildlife resources (especially elephants) management almost immediately as it threatens the existence of the rich animal heritage resources of the Okavango region. Therefore, we recommend that the Botswana government intensifies anti-poaching patrols countrywide, especially in the Okavango region during the winter period when the demand appears to become too high. Stricter controls should be made on access to firearms. The government needs to liaise with neighbouring countries, including South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and others to curb the scourge and increase measures to sustain wildlife heritage resources in the region.
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