Botswana to ban all hunting ...... FINAL ANSWER?

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Hello @douglaswise  i am reading a book called "Shaping Kruger" by a Mitch Reardon that covers, amongst other things, the provision of artificial waterholes in the Kruger at a time of prolonged drought, and the unintended consequences that this produced, leading to a reversal of the policy. It is as you say a very complex issue and indeed a fascinating one.You will know I am sure of the disastrous effects on Sable and Roan antelope the artificial waterholes produced in the Kruger causing not only an increase in Zebra and Wildebeest numbers in areas that could not support both them and the rarer antelope, but bringing with it more lions who thus had a bigger effect on decreasing numbers of roan and Sable and Eland  It also documents various culling attempts down the years, how successful-or usually unsuccessful they were, the biggest thing I have taken is just how complicated and, in the long term resilient environments can be

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I haven't read the book to which you refer.  I am prepared to accept that  zebra and wildebeest (long and short grass grazers respectively) will initially increase in consequence of acquiring more grazing close to surface water.  It is less certain that there is a causal correlation between their increased numbers and the declining numbers of roan and sable.  I have, for example, read that anthrax might be a more important cause of the latter.  The species that benefits most from the provision of artificial water holes is undoubtedly the elephant, the numbers and biomass of which increase to the long term detriment of most other herbivores.  Absenting this rise in elephant numbers, one might hope that other herbivores would remain in balance with the food available to them, given that any increases above that might be checked by corresponding increases in predator numbers.  However, as I previously stated, I lack sufficient knowledge to have great confidence in this hope. I can say, however, that there is good evidence that the Kruger elephant culls, even before they were terminated, were never sufficient to reduce them to a sustainable carrying capacity - in fact, they continued to increase in number.  One cannot say that a policy has failed if it hasn't been properly implemented.  If, indeed, water holes, as you suggest, increase lion density to levels that won't allow rarer antelope to survive, I'd be more likely to advocate lion culling in parts of the Park where one wishes to support them than to close water holes.

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Here is a little anecdotal information from my last trip to Botswana. There are clearly may concession standing vacant. My cousin is trying to get one such concession and to justify it with eco-tourism. His motives are completely philanthropic, and we chatted for a while about how he plans to do it. The concession is around a million hectares, and there is much more land in Central Kalahari and around Ngamiland which is still in limbo. I wish my cousin all the success in the world, but I am afraid it's not looking promising. The boreholes are no longer functioning in these areas, and I also met a group who are trying to raise funds to keep these boreholes running. Many of these old concessions are now thinly patrolled by BDF, and poaching is on the rise. 


Botswana's growing poaching problem

“Recent research predicts that about 600 tonnes of bush meat is smuggled out of this district monthly.  I thought the research was over exaggerated but judging by the recent trends, 600 tonnes may be nothing,” Blackbeard said.

That's 600 tonnes monthly - as opposed to 200 tonnes annually before the ban. 


I don't want to go into too much detail, but the obvious tourist areas are as yet unaffected by the increase in poaching. Botswana has yet to replace the income lost from hunting through tourism. But even if they do, it simply means that more bed nights will be filled by the same tourist outfitters, and if need be, they simply expand their operation on the same land. They don't extend their operation to new lands. So the old concessions will still remain in limbo, and the poaching will continue.


The worst part of this whole experiment is the deliberate lack of data before the ban and the lack of information since the ban. You would think that if the government thought that the ban would be a success, they would have had all the studies to prove it. But they are silent. If the ban were a success, they would be rubbing it in the faces of the people who opposed it. 


I do love Botswana, and although my inner voice warned me that the hunting ban was foolhardy, I did hope that Khama who seemed pretty committed would be able to make a success of it. The problem with a mistake of this magnitude is that the consequences can be permanent. Once wildlife is lost and people move in with, it's very difficult to get wildlife back again. Tourists never visited the hunting concessions, and will hence probably never miss them, so they may rejoice at their victory for now.



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