“A rhino’s horn belongs to a rhino and no one else. What is there not to understand?” Speaking at the Botswana Forum at ITB Berlin 2017. Tshekedi Khama, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, never strayed from his main topic: Botswana’s efforts to promote nature conservation and eco-tourism. In Africa no other sector of the economy creates so many jobs as tourism. However, without big game the country’s national parks are not very attractive to tourists. The crisis caused by poaching therefore not only threatens Africa’s unique biodiversity, but its economic prospects as well.
Botswana, the partner country of ITB, is considered a world leader in nature conservation. Three factors have contributed to its success: zero tolerance regarding corruption, the involvement of local communities and increased support for them in nature reserves, and a committed fight against illegal trade in wildlife and mismanagement of natural resources. At the same time there are big challenges facing Botswana if it wants to maintain its leading role in nature conservation. “It’s not what you’ve got that counts, it’s how you use it“, the minister said quoting UNWTO General Secretary Taleb Rifai, and repeatedly stressed how important it was to him for wildlife and humans to live peaceful and healthy lives side by side. “As the first country south of the Sahara in this role, we are delighted to benefit from our partnership with ITB“, said Khama, for whom it was very important to make people aware of the results of their own actions, particularly in tourism.
In Botswana a hunting ban was imposed three years ago in order to stem the decline in wildlife populations. “We have always been a nation of hunters. If we suddenly stop people hunting we have to replace that with something“, said Khama. One way is to directly and indirectly involve communities in the process. “Currently, 35,000 people are involved directly and 228,000 indirectly in nature conservation and protecting animal species.“
Botswana intends to continue along this path, “even if some people say that I prefer animals to human beings“, said the minister with a smile. His family would however contradict that... “In Africa 90 elephants die every day – the continent has to take some decisions“, Khama said. And he was confident he had taken the right ones. “In Botswana we lost only 32 elephants last year. The country is home to one-third of Africa’s elephant population.“ People are beginning to realise that an elephant’s worth cannot be measured in its price per pound of ivory.
Khama called upon people to examine their conscience. “Buyers are not the ones who kill the animal, but without them it would not have to die...“ He was aware of the need to strike a balance between tourism, nature and local communities. However, in his view simply maximising profit was the wrong direction. “The world is changing and we are part of that process. We have a responsibility for nature and the creatures that live in it. That is a big challenge.“ However, there were also those who had no place in his vision for a life of co-existence, and they were poachers. They were not welcome in Botswana, he added. “We do not pass judgment on poachers, we leave that up to God. But we might be able to arrange a meeting.“
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