In progress: A Surge of Poaching in Botswana

There is a current surge of poaching in Botswana. Large mammals are the targets – elephants, giraffes and buffaloes – and the reasons for the poaching are for meat as much as it is for ivory. One researcher claimed that 600 tonnes of game meat had been exported from the Gcwihaba Hills area alone. Another stated he believed the real tonnage is, altogether, very much bigger. Whatever it is, please understand, this is just the beginning!

Some elephants have been killed for their ivory and several local tribespeoples have been detained for questioning because they have been found in possession of freshly procured elephant tusks. And several elephant carcasses have been found without their ivory – for which no arrests have been made.

One must ask the question: Why is this taking place now after Botswana has had such a good record for so many years when poaching incidents were very few.   THAT was the case was before 2104. So what happened before 2014; and what happened during 2014 to effect the change?.

Prior to 2014, big game hunting safaris in Botswana had been big business for the tourism industry for many decades. Despite fears from the anti-hunting animal rightists, elephants and other big game animals continued to increase in number and the quality of their trophies remained consistently high. This was indicative of the fact that the hunting take-off was not adversely affecting the animals’ genetic makeup at all.

The hunting safari industry employed a lot of local people who benefited in many ways; from jobs created and good salaries; from the provision of meat from trophy animal kills – delivered by tractor and trailer right into the village environs; and from a consistent supply of potable bore-holed water supplies which were all created and maintained by the hunting safari outfitters at their expense. The very presence of hunting safari vehicles traversing the terrain, and of the paying hunting clients, their accompanying professional hunters and their trackers, walking all over the place on foot, in pursuit of top-of-the-range trophy animals to hunt, was a great deterrent to poaching. Poaching of anything during that era was an exceptional event.

Then in 2014, Ian Khama, President of Botswana, was persuaded by his animal rightist friends, that all hunting should be stopped and that the country should concentrate, instead, on photographic safaris.   He was informed by these, his friends, that allowing hunting safaris to be conducted in the country, at all, was very bad publicity for overseas photographic tourism; and he was told that hunting safaris and photographic safaris could and should not mix (which was incorrect advice).

Khama was plied with the idea, and convinced, that photographic safaris would replace hunting safaris easily – once the hunting stopped – which was also incorrect. There are infinitely more places (in the very thick bush and deep inside the country’s extensive teak forests, for example) where – because the circumstances are unfavourable – photographic tourists will never venture.   Be that as it may, by presidential decree, the hunting was stopped in 2014 and photographic tourism was promoted in its place.

Suddenly – at the stroke of the president’s pen – many local people were out of jobs; no free meat arrived at the villages; the borehole pumps broke down and were not repaired; and the ever increasing numbers of elephants raided the people’s croplands with impunity.

While rural communities lost millions of dollars (Botswana Pula) in income, annually, and they appealed to the government to reinstate the hunting. The government ignored their pleas. And the people became very angry. In this process, the government lost the rural people’s support in its anti-poaching war, because the village hunters, for years, had been the country’s front line defence against the poachers.

So, the people, to survive, have now begun poaching “their own” wild animals. Gone is all their respect for government and the law. They simply do their own thing. And this new syndrome has only just begun. It is going to get worse and worse as the communities learn how best to hide their poaching endeavours from the authorities; as each community starts to help its neighbours to also avoid detection; and as the lynch-pins in the local village mafia find more and better markets for their contraband.

Botswana has always relied on the military to ward off foreign poachers. Very soon, however, the army is going to be fighting Botswana’s own communities – en masse. THIS is not how to fight a war – against your own people – or to win over the hearts and minds of the country’s people. Such is not a legitimate fight.

All this has happened because the government of the day – represented by the President himself – has demonstrated that he cares less for the needs of his own people than he does for the opinions of his animal rightist friends and anti-hunting photographic safari outfitters who, for doctrinaire reasons alone, are against the use of hunting as a wildlife management tool. And it is not that the hunting makes the numbers of animals any less. There are enough to satisfy the needs of everybody concerned. Furthermore, the elephant numbers are going up all the time in Botswana.

And photographic safaris CAN work in tandem (but not overlapping) with hunting safaris.

So, if the government of Botswana wants to stop the dangerous escalation of poaching that is taking place in the country at this time, all it has to do is to return to the general wildlife management practices it promoted and permitted prior to 2014. They worked well then and they will work well again now if the people’s legitimate “needs” are being satisfied.

If on the other hand, the government of Botswana wants to lose all its wildlife, and if it wants to lose the TOTAL support of its rural people, all it has to do is to start beating the village hunters (the new era poachers) with an ever bigger stick. THAT will NOT stop the poaching – because the people STILL have to survive – but it will get the people even angrier than they already are; and I predict that – should the government NOT return to pre-2104 wildlife management practices – the poaching trend that has just begun will soon get out of hand.

This is a very good example of what happens when animal rights elements start interfering with the management of wildlife sanctuaries – of which they know nothing at all – and when governments succumb to the overtures of such people for reasons of political expediency.



  1. Once again, an absolutely well thought out, clever and amazing article on what is just the truth, and nothing but the truth, on what is happening with Botswana´s wildlife.
    I regret to say that I was present when the plan to ban hunting in Botswana was being thought out by Ian Khama´s friends…
    I know EXACTLY what happened, and who those people are.
    If I get permission from Mr. Thomson, I will gladly explain it.

    Finally, I would like to mention that there is another crusade going on in Botswana. This time, against wildlife filmmakers that are not of Mr. Khama´s friends “taste”…
    And I also know what´s going on for the simple reason that I was living in Africa for mire than a decade, and I came across the path of many of the individuals involved in these stories.

    Thanks again Ron for another outstanding article.
    This should be required reading in every single school in Africa, so that the future generations know exactly what they will be facing.

    • Ron Thomson

      Dear David,

      Thank you for your kind comments.
      Be my guest. The TGA is engaged in telling the true with no holds barred. And we like to get “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” out to those people who follow the scribblings of the TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE. You have my permission to spill the beans the best way that you can. Be as expansive as you like. If what you have to say is a long essay we will log it as website blog and link it to our Facebook. It will get out in an unabridged form – one way or another. I look forward to the read.

      With kind regards


  2. Hi Ron,
    thanks a lot for your kind words too, and for your permission to write about this issue.
    Here we go, lets see if I can explain it well…

    The name of the people that are responsible for the hunting ban in Botswana are Ian Khama, Tshekedi Khama, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Colin Bell and Susanne and Michael Sydney Slogrove.
    I think Keith Eric Joubert (Dereck´s brother), also had a saying on all this, but he´s now dead.

    It all started around nine years ago, when due to their fanaticism towards animals, and their hatred for hunters, they decided to organize a plan to try and buy as many land as possible across the African continent, and turn hunting concessions into photographic safaris.
    In other words, buy the land where those hunting licenses could be used, tear them apart, and turn that into areas where they would build top of the range lodges for high end tourists (forget middle o class individuals!!!) could go with their cameras to photograph the animals.
    The plan was to start in Bots, then carry on into Zimbabwe, and finalize in Tanzania.
    I heard of it for the first time one morning at Dereck´s house (I can provide physical address if needed), and I have to accept that back then I thought it was a good idea, as I had been brainwashed by the greenies, animal rightists and tree huggers to believe that hunting (legal, ethical hunting) was the main reason for animals like elephants, lions and rhinos being decimated from the African continent.
    So I asked Dereck “Ok, so once you close the hunting concessions, what would be plan b)”? In other words, what would happen with the people involved in those concessions.
    Reply: “There´s no plan b) for now”. Shocking, pretty shocking in deed…
    So my next question was: “How do you know you will succeed in such an ambitious plan”?
    Reply: “Because we have Ian”. As simple and direct as that.

    Every time that this couple comes out to talk their nonsense (which has ZERO scientific evidence), there´s the usual bunch of boot lickers who come out to say how awesome and amazing they are.
    What amazes me is that they come as generous, heart of gold and ultra-friendly characters, when in reality they have two faces.
    For example, I remember when Tim Liversedge brought out his film Roar, Lions of the Kalahari.
    He got all the credits for it, while the reality is that the guy that was his second unit (can’t remember his name now, sorry) did all the hard work for him.
    Well, this guy wanted to get a specific shot of lions killing a buffalo for his latest movie back then.
    The best place in Africa to see that killing interaction is called Duba Plains, and island in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana.
    The Jouberts’ own that lodge (they bought it from Wilderness Safaris), and they have exclusive filming rights in that area, as you can imagine.
    So this gentleman (a truly one for that matter) asked them permission so he could stay there for just one week, get his shot and leave, giving Duba all due credits.
    Do you know what they answered to him? Well, I guess you do.

    Their anti-hunting stance does not come so much from the point of view that, for example, elephants are on the verge of extinction, which we all know it is not true.
    Actually, they were not anti hunters when they started filming thirty odd years ago. It all happened when one of the male lions that they were filming (from a coalition of three), left the game reserve and traversed into a PERFECTLY LEGAL hunting block… and he got shot by a PH.
    Their hatred for hunters comes from a a semi-hidden agenda (I don’t know the full details about it) that probably has an important business side to it.
    So they have gone to some ridiculous radical ideas, as Beverly being a pure vegetarian, or manipulating and falsifying some scientific data regarding lion numbers and diseases in Africa.
    Craig Packer, in his book Lions in the Balance, gives a very good description about this in pages 44 to 47.

    In Botswana, president Khama and his buddies, the “elite” of the country, have a total stranglehold in the tourism industry there. And here´s another point/reason for pursuing the hunting ban.
    He’s a keen investor in tourism, with an ever-widening web of business interests in the sector. Khama was a business partner of Dereck’s older brother, Keith Eric Joubert, who as I said before, is now dead.
    One of the things that Ian should explain and stop hiding to his own people is the fact that Wal Mart finances him big time for his “Conservation” ideas…

    Khama presented Dereck and his wife with a Presidential Order of Meritorious in September 2013 (just when they announced the ban on hunting in Bots… coincidence, coincidence) for, “both their conservation work and the outstanding impact that their films and books and appearances have brought to Botswana”.

    Khama is a director in a Kasane based tourism company called Baobab Safari Lodges Ltd. He has held an undisclosed stake alongside Susanne and Michael Sydney Slogrove and the late Keith Eric Joubert since 1999. If you recall, these names were mentioned at the beginning of this story.

    Baobab Safari Lodges is part of Wilderness Safaris Limited (WSL), another company that Khama has interests in. Wilderness owns 25.68% of Khama’s Baobab Safari Lodges. Or at least he did until 2014, when the ban took effect.

    Very well known Safari owners in Botswana (Debbie Peake or Graeme Pollock, to name just two) have pointed out that Joubert is Khama’s close friend and that he influenced the President to ban trophy hunting and take over the hunting concession areas and transfer them into photographic tourism.
    I can personally attest to that truth, even though Dereck will deny it if you ask him. Well… he even flew once from Johannesburg to Gaborone in his little plane in order to discuss the issue!!! Khama’s relationship with the Jouberts goes as far as endorsing his wildlife documentaries projects and books. The President wrote the foreword to Joubert’s DVDs and book, Eye of the Leopard (2009) and The Last Lions (2012).
    Besides, the government through Botswana Tourism sponsored The Last Lions promotion, a movie which created a lot of fuss in the conservation world, as you probably very well know Ron.

    Khama holds a five percent stake in Linyanti Investments, another subsidiary of Wilderness Holdings Limited. Linyanti is the holding company for Wilderness Safaris subsidiaries and brands. Khama’s associates, the Slogroves used to run one of the only three crocodile farms in Botswana.
    They ran the Chobe Crocodile Farm in Kasane before they relocated to Victoria Falls. According to Directory of Crocodilian Farming Operations IUCN by R. A. Luxmoore, as early as 1987, the farm had 17 rearing ponds, four breeding ponds and over 1,000 crocodiles.
    This is data that used to be available, but since some of this info started to become public knowledge in Bots, the President’s office started to be unfriendly with the free press (to put it diplomatically), and since then, it might be difficult to find this info.
    Isaac Kgosi might know EXACTLY where those papers are…

    Ian Khama has turned Botswana into his own personal field, and democracy is not as “pure” as it used to be, especially when it comes to respecting what should be the free press.

    For people that are supposed to be totally into conservation, it really strikes a chord the fact that Mr. Khama has allowed an oil company to do drilling and fracking in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park… after evicting the local communities (San bushmen) out of their ancestral lands, and has forbidden them to hunt even for food!!!
    Weird… hey?

    I could go on and on with more examples that would show you that this couple is not as ethical as people presume, but I’ll leave it here for now.
    Otherwise this email might become an infinite loop.
    I guess you get the idea.

    Just a couple more examples will suffice:
    You know that they are heavily involved in an operation called Save the Rhinos.
    Ok, cool idea; lions in SA are being savagely butchered by poachers, so they decided to fly them out of the country to Botswana, in order for the animals to be safer.
    Now… do you know how much money have they put themselves from their own pockets in this conservation operation?
    Zero. Zero!!
    So, not setting a very good example, are they?
    Now, they’re quick to go to the States to ask for $$$ from the gullible and ignorant, who can’t distinguish a cow’s fart from a Beethoven’s sonata.
    And let me tell you that they are wealthy individuals. Oh yes, they are.
    I mean, in the future, they would like to be living between Botswana, SA and the Seychelles.
    Not bad for wildlife filmmakers…

    And to finish off, here´s another example of what is pure cynicism:
    There is a very wealthy American individual who has partnered with a very successful SA company called Singita. His name is Paul Tudor Jones. He owns Malilangwe Game Reserve in Zim, and the Singita Grumeti Concession in Tanzania, in the Western Serengeti.
    He´s a very, very wealthy individual.
    Now… he also happens to be a hunter: he goes after buffalo with bow and arrow.
    So what did Dereck and Beverly tried to do? Speak to another person (no guts…) to try and convince Mr. Jones to stop hunting.
    “He should stop being a hunter; it´s unethical in nowadays world”…
    But… here came Paul and paid, from his own pocket, five of the rhinos that were gonna be sent to Bots. And… who was there to receive the rhinos, as if it was them who had managed to make the operation happen? Bingo, the husband and wife team!!

    The latest, as if all the previous stuff was not enough, is that they are trying to impose a ban on…
    wildlife filming in Bots for people that are not of their own “taste”!!!
    Why? The real reason is because of jealousy and insecurity, but the official excuse is that the other filmmaker (also a very well known one in the industry) “doesn´t portray Botswana as he should”.
    Go figure…

    And not happy with ruining the situation in Bots, they have now gotten the Sapi are just by Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, and will try and tackle Chewore too, in order to turn them from hunting areas into photographic safaris.

    So there you have it Ron.
    I hope this gives you and your readers a better idea of why Botswana is starting to feel the poachers pressure, and who were, and are, responsible for the whole situation.
    We can only hope that “someone” out there will notice when it all crashes, which I´m pretty certain it eventually will.

    Warmest regards.

  3. This report is Conservation nonsense. I have been in Wildlife Conservation business for the last 40 years and sport hunting made sense during the Earnest Hemingway’ days when Africa was teeming with wildlife everywhere.
    You claim that there are far too many animals that need to be hunted. Where are your wildlife population figures. You are blindly killing animals without knowing what you have. Would you confirm whether you have done the following regularly scientifically to convince the world that sport hunting is still a wildlife management tool:-
    What is the population of elephants in Botswana now?
    What is the sex ratio?
    Annual recruitment rate.
    Age groups
    Annual mortality rate.
    Quality of habitat.
    Ecosystem carrying capacity.
    Average longevity.
    Open migration and dispersal areas.
    Annual off take without upsetting population structure
    The following are causes of increased poaching in Africa :-
    Extreme poverty.
    Poorly equipped and demoralized anti-poaching teams.
    Increased demand of Ivory in the Far East. So long as there are open Ivory markets, poaching will never stop.
    Corruption cartels in high places.
    Lack of involvement of local communities in Wildlife management.
    Failure by governments to surrender part of the tourism revenue to the communities living with wildlife.
    Weak wildlife laws.
    Put these measures in place and you will see a drop in poaching activities.
    Arthur Mahasi,
    Mahasi Wildlife Trust.

    • Dear Mr Mahasi

      There are those who approve of hunting. There are those who don’t. Those who don’t will never be convinced. You are one of the latter.
      Some of your questions are valid. Most, however, with due respect, are pedantic.
      So I have a choice. Do I answer your questions just to keep you happy – when I know I can never satisfy your antagonisms; or do I save my time and elect to NOT answer your questions – because I do not have the time to waste.
      My choice is that I shall not even try to satisfy your chagrin. Go your way, therefore, and hate the people who hunt. I will toast you this evening as I sip my whisky!
      I trust that you do not have the same prejudices about killing cattle when you next sit down to eat a delicious steak. I am told countless millions of cattle are slaughtered each day to satisfy people who enjoy a braai? So maybe you will be the cause of cattle extinction!

      I am not a hunter any more; I am getting too long in the tooth to satisfy my hunting instincts. I have been a government game warden my entire life; Provincial Game Warden-in-charge of Hwange National Park; Director of the Bophuhatswana National Parks and Wildlife Management Board in South Africa (31 years altogether); and an investigative wildlife management journalist for the last 27 years. I have written 15 books on wildlife and its management. Two of my wildlife management books are used to teach wildlife management principles in South African Universities. All, in all, I have a total of 58 years in this business. So don’t think I don’t know what I am talking about.
      And for your information I think your intervention is a ridiculous attempt to impose your self-indulgent superiority. It doesn’t wash with me!
      Goodbye, Sir. I hope you have a happy day.

      Waidmanns Heil!

    • Dear Mr Mahasi,

      Please avail yourself of the many blogs on our website – – which explain my rationale very clearly.

      We are clearly on different pages – so you are right about that.

      I have 58 years of experience in the field of wildlife management…. but clearly we have different viewpoints.

      Hope you enjoy the reads.

      Kind regards

    • KEEP IN TOUCH. I have a new article on this subject pending. Ron Thomson

  4. Pingback:A letter to Mr. Derek Joubert - Jofie Lamprecht Safaris

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