Rumors that hunting has closed in the Okavango region of Botswana have been making the rounds for many months now, and hunters heading that way have contacted our offices looking for confirmation. I reported last May (see Article ID 2251) that the Botswana Ministry of Environment had conducted a land-use review and was considering options for both consumptive (hunting) and non-consumptive (photographic and wildlife viewing) uses of concessions in the delta. I told you that changes were coming for certain, although no one could say for sure what they would be.
So, has hunting closed in the Okavango delta? According to the Botswana Wildlife Management Association, yes and no. Just days after going to press with the December issue of The Hunting Report I received this statement from the association through Debbie Peake of Mochaba Developments. (E-mail Extra subscribers got this news the same day I received it.):
“During the past 16 months, amidst much speculation of closure and ensuing rumors, Botswana’s safari outfitters have worked hard with their Government to incorporate some major adjustments in areas available to hunting. Whilst some modifications in the commercial multi-purpose areas in the immediate proximity of the Okavango Delta were unavoidable, outfitters report that hunting in select Controlled Hunting Areas (CHA’s) will continue. Hunting community-managed multi-purpose areas, who are in joint venture partnerships, will continue for the duration of their leases. Emphasis has been given to elephant, which is the single highest species on quota to date. The 2010 quota has been released to outfitters, who are pleased with the results and are confident that their deliberations and close working relationship with their Government is paying off.
“Controlled hunting will continue in areas that are less conducive to photographic use. The value of hunting economies still applies in areas not suitable to photographic safaris, where hunters continue to pay for and support conservation efforts/practices to prevent wildlife areas from converting to less conservation-friendly land use, such as agriculture, accompanied by the resultant loss of biodiversity. In line with Botswana’s Vision 2016, controlled and sustainable hunting will continue to be a major contributor to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods in rural areas.
“Elephant hunting re-opened in Botswana in 1996, having been closed in 1982. The kick-off quota in 1996 was 33 elephant, and the quota stands today at 340. Trophy tusk averages are still as good today as they were in 1996. So, clients will be pleased that Botswana’s outfitters are confident that the future bodes well and the reputation that Botswana’s outfitters have acquired over these years is still admirable. In line with the Botswana Govern- ment’s 5-D policies (Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery), outfitters are determined to maintain high standards and ethics/hunting practices. So, if you are booked to hunt Botswana in the future, make sure you book with a reputable, reliable and registered outfitter. Contact the Botswana Wildlife Management Association at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Debbie Peake at debbie@mochaba .net, for information on registered members of the Association.”
Basically, some areas have been closed to hunting. Others are slated to close in the next few years. Which ones? According to other sources I spoke with, the Botswana Government recently tendered NG 14, 15, 16, 26, 29 and 30 for single use only as photographic areas. These six concessions cover most of the Chobe and Okavango region. A seventh concession, NG 20, was not tendered but will be converted to single use (photographic) along with the other six concessions. The lease for NG 20 expired on December 31, 2009 as a multi-use concession. NG 14, 15, 16 and 26 were all returned to their former lease holders, who agreed to stop all hunting after 2009, or before in some cases.
These are Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) with direct leases with the government, and not community concessions that have villages and people living in them. The leases are for longer periods of time, normally 15 years, not one to five years as in community areas. Leases on the WMAs also include an option to extend the lease for an additional 15 years.....