Botswana Hunting Extended Through 2013; Public Areas to Close in 2014

President of Botswana Ian Khama has announced that hunting in Botswana will end in 2014. He first said this during a campaign stop in the Sankoyo and Mababe areas of Botswana at the end of October. (See the November 1 Email Extra Bulletin I sent out about this on.) Speculation was that Khama was politicking at the time, but later he repeated this on November 5 during his State of the Nation address. At press time in late November, however, an official announcement had not been given to the hunting industry in Botswana. In fact, even as Khama was making these statements, the Botswana government was extending elephant hunting leases for numerous operators through 2013. (See list below.)

I spoke with Debbie Peake of the Botswana Wildlife Management Association (BWMA) right after Khama’s statements appeared in the Botswana press. Peake says the public announcement caught the association and its members a bit by surprise in light of the newly extended leases and continuing communications with the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) on ways to accommodate hunting beyond 2013. In an official statement issued by BWMA, the organization specifically states that the extended hunting period was allowing more time for continued dialogue with the ministry on national conservation strategies and the transition of these areas to non-consumptive tourism. “The BWMA has been in negotiations with the MEWT since 2008 in an effort to rationalize the change in land use,” the statement reads. “Consumptive tourism plays a critical role in securing remote wildlife areas against poaching, fire, human and livestock encroachment, and supports community-based livelihoods. With these pivotal factors in mind, the BWMA will continue to collaborate and lobby Government to recognize how hunting succeeds in maintaining wildlife functionality and habitat conservation in Botswana.”

The president’s statements and lack of clarification from the ministry have left the hunting industry there somewhat in limbo. Khama mentions only hunting in “public areas,” so it is unclear how that applies to community-owned areas where there are leases that don’t expire until 2017. Some say that Khama’s announcement will not affect hunting there at all, while others question whether a quota will be issued for those leases past 2013. It appears hunting on private ranches will not be affected. But you should only expect plains game hunts there, as wildlife officials also intend to close leopard hunting.

Khama’s announcements are couched within statements about declining game populations, increases in poaching and Botswana’s need to protect wildlife as a national treasure. He says losses in game are hurting tourism. But any claims that elephant populations in Botswana are in decline are patently incorrect, as Botswana’s elephant population is the largest in the world and has been growing steadily. Habitat destruction due to overpopulation is already occurring in areas along the Okavango Delta, and conflicts with humans are increasing. Additionally, species pressured by the habitat loss, due to both elephant overpopulation and human/livestock encroachment, will continue to diminish in affected areas. Tourist hunting is not the cause of their demise and closing hunting will not stop it, nor will it decrease poaching. Without hunting operators to fund and manage anti-poaching programs and maintain water projects and other habitat support, poaching and habitat loss will only increase.
Peake told me the association is actively seeking clarification on the latest announcements by Khama, since it is contrary to what the ministry has told BWMA in the past and what the association has worked toward for several years. The key to negotiations may be to remove the word “hunting” from the mix and talk about “management” of elephant populations. Since early 2011, the ministry has discussed continuing elephant hunting under “special dispensations” as part of a management plan. (See Article 2593.) Two years later, however, nothing has come of those discussions. Peake says she and others in the industry are not prepared to let this go and will continue pursuing a future for hunting in Botswana.
Until the government makes an official statement or agrees to “elephant management” you should know that hunting in Botswana is open for 2013 (at least), and I hear there are availabilities. At press time, however, quotas had not been issued and rumors are that the quotas will be reduced. Here’s a list of areas and who is hunting them, plus details from operators who responded to our inquiries by press time.

Hunting Concession Leases Extended Through 2013
· CH 1/2: Butler & Holbrow Safaris, Peter Holbrow (peterholbrow@gmail.com) or Greg Butler (Kelly@gregbutlersafaris.com). As this was written, they had eight openings for CH1&2, also called Chobe Enclave, for 2013. Although the quota has not been released yet, they expect their usual quota of 28 elephants available to hunt from the first Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of September 2013. Specific dates are available on request. Kelly Butler says she and Greg will be moving on to new adventures in 2014. You can find Greg and Kelly Butler at the SCI Convention in Reno.

· CT1 and CT7: Rann Safaris, Jeff Rann (jeffrann@yahoo.com). In addition to an extended lease in CT1, Rann has secured the quota for CT7 again. You’ll recall he took a 95×90 pounder there in 2011. His quota for this area in 2012 was 21. Until the 2013 quota is released, Rann is unsure what his openings will be. You can visit with him at the Dallas Safari Club Show in Dallas (booths 1105/06, and 1205/1206); the African Hunting Show in Calgary (booth 6); SCI in Reno (booth 2011, 2013, 2110, 2112) and African Hunting Show in Atlanta (Booth 26).

· CT2, NG 41 and NG 42: Johan Calitz Safaris and Nemesis Safaris, Johan Calitz (johan@calitzsafaris.com) – Calitz’s lease on NG41, a community-based concession also called Mababe, does not expire until 2017. Calitz also operates in Mozambique.

· CT3: Chobe Fish Eagle, Duncan Britton (Duncan@chobesafarilodge.com).

· NG 43: Kgori Safaris, Jim Van Rensburg (hunt@kgorisafaris.com) Rensburg says they are excited about the extended lease and have a number of open slots for next year. After 2013, Rensburg says Kgori will hunt in Botswana on private land, and elsewhere in Africa, including Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. At press time, Rensburg said they are also negotiating to hunt in Mozambique. You can catch up with Rensburg at the SCI Convention in Reno at booths 1042 and 1044.

· NG 47: Safaris Botswana Bound, Graeme Pollock (saf.bots@info.bw). Pollock says his clients have harvested many elephants over 60 pounds. He is offering 10-day hunts including trophy licenses, ground transport to and from Maun, and taxidermy and field prep. Prices are based on trophy size: up to 54 pounds $36,900; 55 pounds and larger are $39,000. He has openings from May through mid-September 2013. Safaris between June 15 and August 15 are $32,000 due to a lower number of elephants in the area during that period.

Also, Pollock operates a game ranch adjoining his concession. It features a camp with a swimming pool, walk-in cool room and plains game hunting, including kudu, gemsbok, impala, zebra, wildebeest and other game. Rental firearms are available.

· CH 12: Bottle Pan Safaris, Mike Murray (mike@murrayranches.co.za). After 2013, Murray plans to focus on plains game and big game safaris on his family estates in South Africa. You can catch up with him at the Dallas Safari Club convention and at the African Hunting Show in Toronto and Calgary.